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Corresponding  Member  of  the  Royal  Academy  of  Medical  Sciences,  Palermo,s 
Author  of  "  The  Recrudescence  of  Leprosy  and  its  Causation 



Late  Medical  Inspector,  U.S.  Army; 
Corresponding  Member  of  the  Neiv  York  Academy  of  Sciences 



WALTER   R.    HADWEN,    M.D. 

Licentiate  of  the  Royal  College  of  Physicians,  London; 

Member  of  the  Royal  College  of  Surgeons,  England; 

Licentiate  of  the  Society  of  Apothecaries,  London 





"  Such  is  the  condition  of  humanity,  and  so  uncertain  is  men's  judgment,  that 
they  cannot  determine  even  death  itself." — PLINY. 

"The  indisputable  signs  of  death,  an  extraordinarily  difficult  question." — PROF. 

"  It  should  never  be  forgotten  that  there  is  but  one  really  trustworthy  proof  that 
death  has  occurred  in  any  given  instance,  viz.,  the  presence  of  a  manifest  sign  of 
commencing  decomposition." — SIR  HENRY  THOMPSON,  F.R.C.S. 

"  We  are  obliged  to  acknowledge  that  we  have  no  sign  or  group  of  signs  sufficient 
to  determine  the  moment  of  death  with  scientific  certainty  in  all  cases."— PROF.  P. 

"  It  is  true  that  hardly  any  one  sign  of  death,  short  of  putrefaction,  can  be  relied 
upon  as  infallible." — British  Medical  Journal,  October  31,  1885.  p.  841. 

"  The  thought  of  suffocation  in  a  coffin  is  more  terrible  than  that  of  torture  on 
the  rack,  or  burning  at  the  stake.  Carelessness  in  this  matter  cannot  be  innocent ; 
and  ignorance  in  such  a  case  is  akin  to  crime.  When  we  neglect  precautions  against 
a  fate  so  terrible,  to  which  every  one  is  thus  liable,  our  tears  are  little  less  than  hypo- 
crisy and  our  mourning  is  a  mockery." — PROF  ALEXANDER  WILDER,  M.D. 


A  DISTRESSING  experience  in  the  writer's  family  many  years  ago 
brought  home  to  his  mind  the  danger  of  premature  burial,  and 
led  ultimately  to  the  careful  study  of  a  gruesome  subject  to  which 
he  has  a  strong  natural  repugnance.  His  collaborator  in  the 
volume  has  himselt  passed  through  a  state  of  profound  suspended 
animation  from  drowning,  having  been  laid  out  for  dead— an 
experience  which  has  induced  him  in  like  manner  to  investigate 
the  various  death-counterfeits.  The  results  of  the  independent 
inquiries  carried  on  by  both  of  us  in  various  parts  of  Europe 
and  America,  and  by  one  of  us  during  a  sojourn  in  India  in  the 
early  part  of  this  year,  are  now  laid  before  the  reader,  with  such 
practical  suggestions  as  it  is  hoped  may  prepare  the  way  for 
bringing  about  certain  needed  reforms  in  our  burial  customs. 

The  danger,  as  I  have  attempted  to  show,  is  very  real— to 
ourselves,  to  those  most  dear  to  us,  and  to  the  community  in 
general ;  and  it  should  be  a  subject  of  very  anxious  concern 
how  this  danger  may  be  minimised  or  altogether  prevented. 
The  duty  of  taking  the  most  effective  precautions  to  this  end  is 
one  that  naturally  falls  to  the  Legislature,  especially  under  a 
Government  professing  to  regard  social  questions  as  of  paramount 
importance.  Fortunately,  this  is  a  non-party  and  a  non-contentious 
question,  it  imperils  no  interest,  so  that  no  formal  obstruction 
or  unnecessary  delay  need  be  apprehended  ;  and  it  should  be 
urged  upon  the  Government  to  introduce  and  carry  an  effective 
measure  at  the  earliest  opportunity,  not  only  as  a  security 
against  the  possibility  of  so  terrible  an  evil,  but  to  quiet  the 
widespread  and  not  altogether  unreasonable  apprehension  on 
this  subject  which  is  now  so  prevalent. 

It  has  been  found  convenient  to  retain  throughout  the  body 
of  the  work  the  use  of  the  singular  pronoun,  but  every  part  of 
the  book  receives  the  cordial  approval  of  both  authors,  and  with 
this  explanation  we  accept  its  responsibility  jointly. 

We  have  to  acknowledge  our  great  indebtedness  in  preparing 
this  volume  to  many  previous  writers,  including  such  as  have 
investigated  the  phenomena  of  suspended  animation  and  the 


signs  of  death,  and  such  as,  with  a  more  practical  intention 
have  dwelt  upon  the  danger  of  death-counterfeits  being  mistaken 
for  the  absolute  extinction  of  life,  illustrating  their  counsels  or 
warnings  by  numerous  instances.  Grouping  both  classes  of 
writers  together,  we  may  mention  specially  the  names  of 
Winslow  and  Bruhier,  Hufeland,  Struve,  Marcus  Herz  and 
Koppen,  Kite,  Curry,  and  Anthony  Fothergill  ;  and,  of  more 
recent  date,  the  names  of  Bouchut,  Londe,  Lenormand,  and 
Gaubert  (on  mortuaries),  Russell,  Fletcher,  Franz  Hartmann, 
and  Sir  Benjamin  Ward  Richardson. 

A  work  to  which  we  are  particularly  indebted  for  the  literature 
of  the  subject  is  that  of  the  late  Dr.  Felix  Gannal,  "  Mort 
Apparente  et  Mort  Reelle  :  moyens  de  les  distinguer."  Paris, 
1890.  Dr.  Gannal,  having  qualified  in  medicine  and  pharmacy, 
occupied  himself  with  the  business  of  embalming,  which  he 
inherited  from  his  father.  He  employed  the  considerable 
leisure  which  the  practice  of  that  art  left  to  him  in  compiling 
the  above  laborious  work.  He  examined  many  books,  pamphlets, 
theses,  and  articles,  from  which  he  cited  expressions  of  opinion 
on  the  several  points — in  a  lengthy  form  in  his  original  edition 
(1868),  in  a  condensed  form  in  the  second  edition.  His 
Bibliography  is  by  far  the  most  comprehensive  that  has  been 
hitherto  compiled.  Our  own  Bibliography  had  been  put  together 
from  various  sources  before  we  made  use  of  Dr.  Gannal's.  It 
includes  several  titles  which  he  does  not  give  ;  while,  on  the 
other  hand,  it  has  been  considerably  extended  beyond  its 
original  limits  by  transcribing  titles  which  we  have  found 
nowhere  but  in  his  list.  The  Bibliography,  it  need  hardly  be 
said,  is  much  more  extensive  than  our  own  reading  ;  but  it 
seemed  useful  to  make  it  as  complete  as  possible,  whether  the 
books  had  been  seen  by  us  or  not,  so  as  to  show  in  chrono- 
logical order  how  much  interest  had  been  aroused  in  the 
subject  from  time  to  time — in  one  country  more  than  another, 
or  in  various  countries  together.  The  titles  of  articles  in 
journals,  which  belong  for  the  most  part  to  the  more  recent 
period,  have  been  taken  from  the  Index  Catalogue  of  the 
Surgeon-General's  Library,  Washington,  a  few  references  being 
added  to  articles  which  have  otherwise  come  under  our  notice. 

W.  T. 


A  CONCURRENCE  of  peculiar  circumstances,  beginning  in  May 
1895,  has  directed  public  attention  in  England  to  the  subject  of 
premature  burial,  probably  to  a  greater  degree,  so  far  as  the 
author's  recollection  serves,  than  at  any  time  during  the  past 
half-century.  Amongst  these  may  be  mentioned  the  publication 
of  several  recent  cases  of  premature  burial  in  the  English  and 
American  papers;  the  narrow  escape  of  a  child  found  in  Regent's 
Park,  London,  laid  out  for  dead  at  the  Marylebone  Mortuary, 
and  afterwards  restored  to  life;  the  issue  in  Boston,  U.S.,  of  Dr. 
Franz  Hartmann's  instructive  essay,  entitled,  "  Buried  Alive :  an 
Examination  into  the  Occult  Causes  of  Apparent  Death,  Trance, 
and  Catalepsy "  (a  considerable  number  of  copies  having  been 
sold  in  England),  and  the  able  leading  articles  and  correspon- 
dence on  the  subject  in  the  Spectator,  Daily  Chronicle,  Morning 
Post,  Leeds  Mercury,  The  Jewish  World,  Plymouth  Mercury, 
Manchester  Courier,  To-Day,  and  many  other  daily  and  weekly 

It  is  curious  that,  while  many  books  and  pamphlets  relating 
to  this  important  subject  have  been  issued  in  France  and  Ger- 
many, no  adequate  and  comprehensive  treatise  has  appeared 
from  the  English  press  for  more  than  sixty  years  past,  nor 
writings  in  any  form,  with  the  exception  of  a  paper  by  Sir 
Benjamin  Ward  Richardson  in  No.  21  of  the  Asclepiad,  pub- 
lished in  1889,  on  the  "Absolute  Signs  of  Death,"  sundry  articles 
in  the  medical  journals  from  time  to  time,  and  a  London  edition 
of  Dr.  Hartmann's  volume  in  January,  1896.  The  section  upon 
"Real  and  Apparent  Death"  in  the  1868  edition  of  the  late  Pro- 
fessor Guy's  "  Forensic  Medicine  "  begins  with  the  words,  "  This 
subject  has  never  attracted  much  attention  in  England,  and  no 
medical  author  of  repute  has  treated  it  at  any  length  " — a  remark 
not  less  true  after  the  lapse  of  a  generation.  The  following 
chapters  have  been  prepared  with  the  view,  not  so  much  of 
supplying  this  omission,  as  of  guiding  the  public  to  the  dangers 


of  our  present  mode  of  treating  the  apparent  dead,  in  the  hope 
that  reforms  and  preventive  measures  may  be  instituted  without 
delay  in  order  to  put  an  end  to  such  unnecessary  domestic 

In  introducing  the  subject  the  author  is  aware  that  the  great 
majority  of  the  medical  profession  in  this  country  are  either 
sceptical  or  apathetic  as  to  the  alleged  danger  of  living  burial. 
Many  do  not  believe  in  the  existence  of  death-trance  or  death- 
counterfeits,  and  the  majority  of  those  who  do  believe  in  them 
declare  that  cases  are  very  rare,  and  that  if  consciousness  is 
ever  restored  in  the  grave  it  can  only  last  a  second  or  two,  and 
that  those  who  live  in  fear  of  such  an  occurrence  should  provide 
for  a.  post-mortem  or  for  the  severance  of  the  jugular  vein.  Many 
persons,  on  the  other  hand,  after  much  careful  inquiry,  are  of 
opinion  that  cases  of  premature  burial  are  of  frequent  occurrence; 
and  that  the  great  majority  of  the  human  race  (outside  of  a  few 
places  in  Germany,  where  waiting  mortuaries  are  established,  or 
where  the  police  regulations,  such  as  those  described  in  this 
volume  as  existing  in  Wiirtemburg,  are  efficiently  and  systema- 
tically carried  out)  are  liable  to  this  catastrophe.  Important  as 
the  subject  is  allowed  to  be,  and  numerous  as  are  the  reported 
cases,  no  effective  steps,  either  public  or  private,  appear  to  have 
been  taken,  outside  of  Germany  and  Austria,  to  remedy  the  evil. 
At  present  a  majority  of  the  people  appear  content  to  trust  to 
the  judgment  of  their  relations  and  to  the  ordinary  certificates 
of  death  to  safeguard  them  from  so  terrible  a  disaster.  That 
death-certificates  and  death-verifications  are  often  of  a  most 
perfunctory  description,  both  as  to  the  fact  of  death  and  the 
cause  of  death,  has  been  proved  by  overwhelming  evidence 
before  the  recent  House  of  Commons  Committee  on  Death- 
Certification.  Such  certificates,  when  obtained,  may  be  mis- 
leading and  untrustworthy;  while  in  many  cases  burials  take 
place  without  the  doctor  having  either  attended  the  patient  or 
examined  the  body.  Nor,  in  spite  of  the  appointment  of  death- 
verificators  by  our  neighbours  across  the  Channel,  is  this  im- 
portant precaution  effectively  carried  out  by  them.  M.  Devergie 
reports  that  in  twenty-five  thousand  communes  in  France  no 
verification  of  death  takes  place,  although  the  law  requires  it; 


and  he  demands  that  no  diploma  shall  be  given  without  the 
candidate  having  proved  himself  conversant  with  the  signs  of 
death.  (Medical  Times,  London,  1874,  vol.  i.,  p.  25.)  On  personal 
inquiry  from  medical  authorities  in  France,  during  the  present 
year  (1896),  we  learn  that  this  laxity  still  prevails. 

It  appears  strange  that,  except  when  a  man  dies,  all  his  con- 
cerns are  protected  by  custom  and  formalities,  or  guarded  by  laws, 
so  as  to  insure  his  interests  being  fairly  carried  out  to  completion. 
Thus  we  see  that  heirship,  marriage,  business  affairs  of  all  kinds, 
whether  of  a  public  or  private  nature,  are  amply  guarded  by  such 
precautionary  and  authoritative  measures  as  will  secure  them. 
But  one  of  the  most  important  of  all  human  interests — that  which 
relates  to  the  termination  of  life — is  managed  in  such  a  careless 
and  perfunctory  way  as  to  permit  of  irreparable  mistakes.  To 
be  sure  there  are  laws  in  most  of  the  Continental  States  of  Europe 
that  are  intended  to  regulate  the  care  and  burial  of  the  dead,  but 
few  of  them  make  it  certain  that  the  apparently  dead  shall  not  be 
mistaken  for  the  really  dead,  and  treated  as  such.  None  of  them 
allow  more  than  seventy-two  hours  before  burial  (some  allow  only 
thirty-six,  others  twenty-four,  and  others  again  much  less,  accord- 
ing to  the  nature  of  the  disease),  unless  the  attending  physician 
petitions  the  authorities  for  reasonable  delay — a  rare  occurrence- 
And  even  if  postponement  is  granted,  it  is  doubtful  if  the  inevitable 
administrative  formalities  would  leave  opportunities  for  dubious 
cases  to  receive  timely  and  necessary  attention,  or  for  cases  of 
trance,  catalepsy,  coma,  or  the  like,  to  be  rescued  from  a  living 

In  the  introduction  to  a  treatise  entitled  "The  Uncertainty  of 
the  Signs  of  Death,  and  the  Danger  of  Precipitate  Interments/' 
published  in  1746,  the  author,  Mr.  M.  Cooper,  surgeon,  says: — 
"Though  death  at  some  time  or  other  is  the  necessary  and  un. 
avoidable  portion  of  human  nature,  yet  it  is  not  always  certain 
that  persons  taken  for  dead  are  really  and  irretrievably  deprived 
of  life,  since  it  is  evident  from  experience  that  many  apparently 
dead  have  afterwards  proved  themselves  alive  by  rising  from 
their  shrouds,  their  coffins,  and  even  from  their  graves.  It  is 
equally  certain  that  some  persons,  too  soon  interred  after  their 
supposed  decease,  have  in  their  graves  fallen  victims  to  a  death 


which  might  otherwise  have  been  prevented,  but  which  they  then 
find  more  cruel  than  that  procured  by  the  rope  or  the  rack."  The 
author  quotes  Lancisi,  first  physician  to  Pope  Clement  XL,  who, 
in  his  treatise  "  De  Subitaneis  Mortibus,"  observes : — "  Histories 
and  relations  are  not  the  only  proofs  which  convince  me  that 
many  persons  supposed  to  be  dead  have  shown  themselves  alive, 
even  when  they  were  ready  to  be  buried,  since  I  am  induced  to 
such  a  belief  from  what  I  myself  have  seen ;  for  I  saw  a  person 
of  distinction,  now  alive,  recover  sensation  and  motion  when  the 
priest  was  performing  the  funeral  service  over  him  in  church." 

After  reporting  and  describing  a  large  number  of  cases  of  pre- 
mature burial,  or  of  narrow  escapes  from  such  terrible  occur- 
rences, in  which  the  victims  of  hasty  diagnosis  were  prepared  for 
burial,  or  revived  during  the  progress  of  the  burial  service,  Mr. 
Cooper  continues  : — "  Now,  if  a  multiplicity  of  instances  evince 
that  many  have  the  good  fortune  to  escape  being  interred  alive, 
it  is  justly  to  be  suspected  that  a  far  greater  number  have  fallen 
victims  to  a  fatal  confinement  in  their  graves.  But  because 
human  nature  is  such  a  slave  to  prejudice,  and  so  tied  down  by 
the  fetters  of  custom,  it  is  highly  difficult,  if  not  absolutely  impos- 
sible, to  put  people  on  their  guard  against  such  terrible  accidents, 
or  to  persuade  those  vested  with  authority  to  take  proper  measures 
for  preventing  them." 

Nothing  seems  to  have  been  done  to  remedy  this  serious  evil ; 
and  forty-two  years  later  Mr.  Chas.  Kite,  a  well-known  practi. 
tioner,  called  attention  to  the  subject  in  a  volume  entitled  "  The 
Recovery  of  the  Apparently  Dead,"  London,  1788.  This  author 
on  p.  92,  says : — "  Many,  various,  and  even  opposite  appearances 
have  been  supposed  to  indicate  the  total  extinction  of  life.  For- 
merly, a  stoppage  of  the  pulse  and  respiration  were  thought  to  be 
unequivocal  signs  of  death;  particular  attention  in  examining  the 
state  of  the  heart  and  larger  arteries,  the  flame  of  a  taper,  a  lock 
of  wool,  or  a  mirror  applied  to  the  mouth  or  nostrils,  were  con- 
ceived sufficient  to  ascertain  these  points  ;  and  great  has  been  the 
number  of  those  who  have  fallen  untimely  victims  to  this  erroneous 
opinion.  Some  have  formed  their  prognostic  from  the  livid,  black, 
and  cadaverous  countenance ;  others  from  the  heavy,  dull,  fixed, 
or  flaccid  state  of  the  eyes ;  from  the  dilated  pupil ;  the  foaming  at 


the  mouth  and  nostrils,  the  rigid  and  inflexible  state  of  the  body, 
jaws,  or  extremities;  the  intense  and  universal  cold,  etc.  Some, 
conceiving  any  one  of  these  symptoms  as  incompetent  and  inade- 
quate to  the  purpose,  have  required  the  presence  of  such  of  them 
as  were,  in  their  opinion,  the  least  liable  to  error;  but  whoever 
will  take  the  trouble  of  reading  the  Reports  of  the  (Humane) 
Society  with  attention,  will  meet  with  very  many  instances  where 
all  the  appearances  separately,  and  even  where  several  associated 
in  the  same  case,  occurred,  and  yet  the  patient  recovered ;  and  it 
is  therefore  evident  that  these  signs  will  not  afford  certain  and 
unexceptionable  criteria,  by  which  we  may  distinguish  between 
life  and  death." 

Mr.  Kite  furnishes  references  to  numerous  cases  of  recovery 
where  the  apparently  dead  exhibited  black,  livid,  or  cadaverous 
countenances ;  eyes  fixed  or  obscure ;  eyeballs  diminished  in 
size,  immovable  and  fixed  in  their  sockets,  the  cornea  without 
lustre  ;  eyes  shrivelled ;  froth  at  the  mouth ;  rigidity  of  the 
body,  jaws,  and  extremities  ;  partial  or  universal  cold.1 

The  crux  of  the  whole  question  is  the  uncertainty  of  the  signs 
which  announce  the  cessation  of  physical  existence.  Prizes  have 
been  offered,  and  prizes  have  been  awarded,  but  further  experi- 
ence has  shown  that  the  signs  and  tests,  sometimes  singly  and 
sometimes  in  combination,  have  been  untrustworthy,  and  that 
the  only  certain  and  unfailing  sign  of  death  is  decomposition. 

Commenting  upon  actual  cases  of  premature  burial,  the  Lancet, 
March  17,  1866,  p.  295,  says: — "Truly  there  is  something  about 
the  very  notion  of  such  a  fate  calculated  to  make  one  shudder, 
and  to  send  a  cold  stream  down  one's  spine.  By  such  a 
catastrophe  is  not  meant  the  sudden  avalanche  of  earth,  bricks, 
or  stones  upon  the  luckless  miner  or  excavator,  or  the  crushing, 
suffocative  death  from  tumbling  ruins.  No  ;  it  is  the  cool, 
determined  treatment  of  a  living  being  as  if  he  were  dead — 
the  rolling  him  in  his  winding  sheet,  the  screwing  him  down  in 
his  cofrin,  the  weeping  at  his  funeral,  and  the  final  lowering  of 

1   "The  Recovery  of  the  Apparently  Dead,"  by  Charles  Kite,   Member  of  the 
Corporation  of  Surgeons  in  London,  and  Surgeon  at  Gravesend  in  Kent.     London, 



him  into  the  narrow  grave,  and  piling  upon  his  dark  and  box-like 
dungeon  loads  of  his  mother  earth.  The  last  footfall  departs 
from  the  solitary  churchyard,  leaving  the  entranced  sleeper 
behind  in  his  hideous  shell,  soon  to  awaken  to  a  consciousness 
and  to  a  benumbed  half-suffocated  existence  for  a  few  minutes ; 
or  else,  more  horrible  still,  there  he  lies  beneath  the  ground 
conscious  of  what  has  been  and  still  is,  until,  by  some  fearful 
agonised  struggle  of  the  inner  man  at  the  weird  phantasmagoria 
which  has  passed  across  his  mental  vision,  he  awakes  to  a  bodily 
vivification  as  desperate  in  its  torment  for  a  brief  period  as  has 
been  that  of  his  physical  activity.  But  it  is  soon  past.  There 
is  scarcely  room  to  turn  over  in  the  wooden  chamber ;  and  what 
can  avail  a  few  shrieks  and  struggles  of  a  half-stifled,  cramped-up 
man  !  " 

To  prevent  such  unspeakable  horrors  as  are  here  pictured, 
the  Egyptians  kept  the  bodies  of  the  dead  under  careful  super- 
vision by  the  priests  until  satisfied  that  life  was  extinct,  previous 
to  embalming  them  by  means  of  antiseptics,  balsams,  and  odor- 
iferous gums.  The  Greeks  were  aware  of  the  dangers  of 
premature  burial,  and  cut  off  fingers  before  cremation  to  see 
whether  life  was  extinct.  In  ancient  Rome  the  recurrence  of 
cases  of  premature  burial  had  impressed  the  nation  with  the 
necessity  for  exercising  the  greatest  caution  in  the  treatment  of  the 
supposed  dead ;  hasty  conclusions  were  looked  upon  as  criminalr 
the  absence  of  breath  or  heat  or  a  cadaverous  appearance  were 
regarded  as  uncertain  tests,  and  the  supposed  dead  were  put 
into  warm  baths  or  washed  with  hot  water,  and  other  means 
of  restoration  adopted.  Neither  in  the  greater  part  of  Europe 
nor  in  the  United  States  are  any  such  means  resorted  to  now, 
except  in  the  case  of  apparent  death  by  drowning,  by  asphyxia, 
or  by  hanging.  Premature  burials  and  narrow  escapes  are  of 
almost  every-day  occurrence,  as  the  narratives  in  the  newspapers 
testify  ;  and  the  complaint  made  by  a  surgeon,  Mr.  Cooper,  a 
hundred  and  fifty  years  ago,  that  the  evil  is  perpetuated  because 
we  are  slaves  to  prejudice,  and  because  those  vested  with 
authority  refuse  to  take  measures  for  prevention,  remains  a 
serious  blot  upon  our  advanced  civilisation.  The  Spectator^ 
September  14,  1895.  commenting  upon  this  unsatisfactory  state 


of  affairs,  observes :—" Burning,  drowning,  even  the  most  hideous 
mutilation  under  a  railway  train,  is  as  nothing  compared  with 
burial  alive.  Strangely  enough  this  universal  horror  seems  to 
have  produced  no  desire  to  guard  against  burial  alive.  We  all 
fear  it,  and  yet  practically  no  one  takes  any  trouble  to  avoid 
the  risk  of  it  happening  in  his  own  case,  or  in  that  of  the  rest 
of  mankind.  It  would  be  the  simplest  thing  in  the  world  to 
take  away  all  chance  of  burying  alive  ;  and  yet  the  world 
remains  indifferent,  and  enjoys  its  horror  undisturbed  by  the 
hope  of  remedy." 

The  authors'  own  reasonings,  opinions,  and  conclusions  are 
here  briefly  presented  ;  but  as  the  majority  of  the  public  are 
oiore  or  less  influenced  by  authority,  it  has  been  thought 
advisable  to  furnish  a  series  of  authenticated  facts  under  the 
several  headings  to  which  they  belong,  and  to  cite  the  judgments 
of  eminent  members  of  the  medical  profession  who  have  given 
special  attention  to  the  subject.  The  source  of  difficulty  has 
been  an  embarras  de  richesse,  or  how  from  a  mass  of  material, 
the  extent  of  which  will  be  seen  by  reference  to  the  Biblio- 
.graphy,  to  select  typical  cases  without  needless  repetition.  The 
premature  burials  and  narrow  escapes  from  such  disasters,  which 
are  reported  by  distinguished  physicans  and  reputable  writers, 
may  be  numbered  literally  by  hundreds,  and  for  every  one 
reported  it  is  obvious  from  the  nature  of  the  case  that  many  are 
never  heard  of.  Amongst  the  names  of  notable  persons,  who 
have  thought  the  subject  sufficiently  practical  for  their  attention, 
may  be  mentioned  those  of  Empedocles,  Plato,  Aristotle,  Cicero, 
Pliny,  Celsus,  Plutarch,  and  St.  Augustine  in  antiquity ;  of 
Fabricius,  Lancisi,  Winslow,  Haller,  Buffon,  Lavater,  Moses 
Mendelssohn,  Hufeland,  and  Alexander  von  Humboldt  in  modern 

The  subject  has  several  times  engaged  the  attention  of  the 
French  Senate  and  Legislative  Chamber,  as  well  as  the  Legis- 
lative Assemblies  in  the  various  States  of  Germany.  In  1871, 
Dr.  Alex.  Wilder,  Prof,  of  Physiology  and  Physiological  Science, 
read  a  paper  before  the  members  of  both  houses  of  the  New 
York  State  Legislature  at  the  Capitol,  Albany  ;  but  we  are  not 
aware  that  the  subject  has  ever  been  introduced  in  any  of  the 


other  State  Legislatures,  or  in  the  British  Parliament,  or  in  any 
of  the  Colonial  Assemblies. 

In  an  editorial  note,  as  far  back  as  November  27,  1858,  the 
Lancet,  referring  to  a  case  of  death-trance,  remarked  that  such 
"examples  are  sufficiently  mysterious  in  their  character  to  call 
for  a  more  careful  investigation  than  it  has  hitherto  been  possible 
to  accord  to  them."  The  facts  disclosed  in  this  treatise,  the 
authors  hope,  may  encourage  qualified  scientific  observers  to 
study  the  subject  of  death-trance,  which,  it  must  be  admitted, 
has  been  strangely  overlooked  in  England,  though  it  would  not 
be  easy  to  mention  one  which  more  deeply  concerns  every 
individual  born  into  the  world. 

In  order  to  prevent  unnecessary  pain  to  the  reader  on  a 
subject  so  distressing  in  its  nature,  the  more  sensational  and 
horrifying  cases  of  premature  burial  have  been  omitted.  They 
can,  however,  be  found  in  abundance  in  the  writings  of  Bruhier, 
Koppen,  Kempner,  Lenormand,  Bouchut,  Russell  Fletcher,  and 
the  Boston  (U.S.)  edition  of  Hartmann.  In  England  and  in 
America  it  is  the  fashion  amongst  medical  men  to  maintain  that 
the  tests  known  to  medical  art  are  fully  equal  to  the  prevention 
of  live  burial,  that  the  cases  quoted  by  the  newspapers  are 
introduced  for  sensational  purposes,  and  that  most  of  them  are 
apocryphal.  The  perusal  of  the  cases  recorded  in  this  volume, 
and  a  careful  consideration  of  the  weight  of  cumulative  evidence 
represented  by  the  very  full  Bibliography,  must  satisfy  the 
majority  of  reflective  readers  that  the  facts  are  both  authentic 
and  numerous. 


WHEN  requested  by  Mr.  William  Tebb,  the  talented 
author  of  "  Premature  Burial,  and  How  it  may  be 
Prevented,"  to  undertake  the  editorship  of  a  second 
edition  of  this  important  work,  for  which  there  was 
an  increasing  demand,  I  felt  much  reluctance  in  com- 
plying with  his  wish,  partly  by  reason  of  the  pressure 
of  many  public  and  professional  duties,  and  partly 
because  the  subject  was  one  which  had  not  been 
studied  by  me  with  the  exhaustiveness  it  demanded. 

The  fact,  however,  that  an  increasing  weight  of  years 
presses  upon  the  venerable  author,  whom  I  hold  in 
the  profoundest  esteem,  and  his  anxiety  to  see  "  some- 
thing accomplished,  something  done,"  ere  he  ceased 
from  his  labours,  coupled  with  my  appreciation  of  the 
loss  he  had  sustained  in  the  death  of  his  medical 
collaborator,  Col.  Edward  Perry  Vollum,  M.D.,  induced 
me  finally  to  accept  the  honour  and  responsibility. 

The  careful  study  of  the  subject  which  the  work 
has  entailed,  and  the  perusal  of  the  evidence  collected 
from  various  parts  of  the  world,  which  has  accumu- 
lated considerably  since  the  first  edition  was  published 
in  1896,  have  convinced  me  of  the  real  need  in  this 
country  of  drastic  and  far-reaching  reforms  in  connec- 
tion with  our  burial  system. 


Cases  occurring  in  the  course  of  my  own  practice, 
and  cases  which  had  come  to  my  notice  in  the  practice 
of  other  medical  men,  have  for  years  led  me  to  realize 
the  dangers  to  which  persons  are  liable  under  our 
faulty  method  of  certification.  But  until,  by  the  help 
of  Mr.  Tebb's  and  Col.  Vollum's  investigations,  I  under- 
took a  systematic  study  of  the  whole  question,  I  was 
not  aware  that  facts  so  numerous  and  well  authenti- 
cated, and  so  widespread,  connected  with  every  branch 
of  the  subject,  were  in  existence. 

The  loss  of  Dr.  Vollum  to  the  cause  of  Burial 
Reform  is  a  real  one.  He  was  no  ordinary  man.  For 
a  third  of  a  century  he  held  high  positions  of  trust 
under  the  United  States  Government,  and  his  indomi- 
table energy,  good  judgment,  professional  prominence, 
and  spotless  public  services  earned  for  him  the  respect, 
the  confidence,  and  admiration  of  all  who  had  the 
good  fortune  to  become  associated  with  him.  His 
genius  and  energy  during  the  great  War  of  the 
Rebellion  brought  him  into  the  front  rank  of  the  men 
of  mark  of  his  time:  few  of  the  many  thousands  of 
sufferers  who  profited  by  his  remarkable  system  of 
medical  organization  knew  at  the  time  how  much 
they  owed  to  Dr.  Vollum's  never-tiring  zeal  and  ex- 
traordinary skill.  His  fearlessness  and  integrity  led 
him,  as  medical  inspector,  to  make  ruthless  war  upon 
soulless  contractors,  inefficient  surgeons,  neglectful 


nurses,  upon  fraud,  drunkenness,  and  ignorance.  Even 
the  dumb  animals  experienced  his  fostering  care,  and 
a  complete  revolution  in  the  veterinary  service  of  the 
United  States  army  was  the  outcome  of  his  strenuous 
efforts.  Nothing  came  amiss  to  him — whether  systema- 
tizing an  ambulance  service,  or  improving  the  army 
ration  and  regulating  the  cooking,  or  establishing 
industrial  asylums  for  the  healthful  employment  of 
army  pensioners,  or  formulating  sanitary  schemes  to 
improve  the  quarters  and  camps  and  health  of  the 
soldiers,  or  forming  insurance  societies  for  the  pro- 
motion of  thrift  among  the  ranks.  The  name  of  Col. 
Vollum  was  always  and  everywhere  synonymous  with 
progress  and  reform.  In  addition  to  all  the  many 
movements  he  initiated  and  advanced,  he  filled,  dur- 
ing the  closing  years  of  active  service  under  Govern- 
ment, the  position  of  Corresponding  Member  of  the 
New  York  Academy  of  Sciences,  as  well  as  the 
highly  responsible  post  of  President  of  Army  Medi- 
cal Examining  Boards. 

He  passed  away  at  Munich  on  3ist  May,  1902, 
his  death  being  due  to  congestion  of  the  liver.  His 
body  was  cremated  at  Jena,  and  the  ashes  were  in- 
terred at  Arlington,  near  Washington.  A  memorial 
service  was  held  in  the  capital,  in  the  presence  of  a 
•distinguished  assembly. 

Thus  it  is  clear  that  the  late  Col.  E.  P.  Vollum  was 


a  man  whose  position,  talents,  character,  and  wealth 
of  experience  were  such  as  to  entitle  him  to  com- 
mand respect,  and  whose  judgment  and  veracity  con- 
cerning any  subject  he  investigated  were  worthy  of 
the  utmost  consideration. 

Dr.  Vollum  first  became  interested  in  the  important 
question  of  Premature  Burial  in  consequence  of  his 
own  very  narrow  escape  from  live  sepulture,  having 
been  pronounced  dead  from  drowning,  and  prepared, 
for  interment,  when  consciousness  happily  returned 
spontaneously.  It  was  he  who  inspired  Dr.  Franz 
Hartmann  to  study  the  occult  phenomena  of  apparent 
death  and  living  burial,  the  results  appearing  in  a 
volume  of  which  editions  have  been  printed  in  the 
United  States,  England,  and  Germany.  On  more 
than  one  occasion  Col.  Vollum  was  instrumental  in 
rescuing  persons  from  the  most  horrible  imaginable  of 
fates,  in  spite  of  the  opposition  and  ridicule  of 
physicians,  priests,  and  relatives,  who  loudly  protested 
against  any  delay  in  the  obsequies  of  those  whom 
they  erroneously  declared  to  be  unmistakably  dead. 
Numerous  articles  and  letters  from  his  pen  appeared 
in  English  and  American  papers,  in  all  of  which  he 
strongly  deprecated  the  custom  of  hastily  judging  by 
appearances,  maintaining  that  putrefactive  decomposi- 
tion was  the  only  sure  proof  of  death. 

By   the   lamentable  decease   of  this  eminent   doctor,. 


the  London  Association  for  the  Prevention  of  Pre- 
mature Burial  has  sustained  irreparable  loss,  as  was 
recognized  by  the  following  resolution  unanimously 
adopted  and  placed  upon  the  minutes  of  the  society: — 

"That  the  committee,  having  heard  with  much  sorrow  of  the 
death  of  Colonel  Edward  Perry  Vollum,  M.D.,  who,  by  his 
collaboration  with  Mr.  William  Tebb  in  the  authorship  of  that 
now  well-known  work,  '  Premature  Burial,  and  How  it  may  be 
Prevented,'  as  well  as  in  various  other  ways,  has  actively  pro- 
moted the  cause  of  the  association,  desires  to  express  its  deep 
sympathy  with  his  family,  and  its  sense  of  the  great  loss  which 
the  movement  has  sustained  by  his  decease." 

Mr.  Wm.  Tebb,  to  whose  pen  we  are  mainly  indebted 
for  the  production  of  the  first  edition  of  this  work 
(the  greater  part  of  which  was  written  by  him  in 
India,  in  the  year  1895),  is  still  with  us,  watching 
and  advising  in  the  compilation  of  the  new  edition 
with  all  the  keenness  of  his  ardent  nature  in  spite  of 
advancing  years. 

Born  in  Manchester — the  birthplace  of  many  notable 
reformers — on  the  22nd  October,  1830,  he  was  in  his 
youth  during  the  stirring  times  when  Cobden,  Bright, 
Fox,  Thompson,  Joseph  Hume,  Ebenezer  Elliot,  and 
many  others,  roused  the  masses  to  a  sense  of  the 
injustice  of  the  Corn  Laws  and  the  "protective  system," 
and,  catching  the  inspiration  of  these  brilliant  ex- 
ponents of  freedom  and  sympathy,  a  few  years  later 


found  him  in  Massachusetts,  in  the  United  States  of 
America,  in  the  thick  of  the  prolonged  struggle  for 
the  emancipation  of  four  millions  of  slaves.  He 
became  personally  acquainted  with  William  Lloyd 
Garrison,  the  great  anti-slavery  apostle,  with  Wendell 
Phillips,  Theodore  Parker,  Adin  Ballou,  and  other 
leaders,  and  here  by  pen  and  voice  assisted  for 
several  years  in  exposing  and  denouncing  the  shameful 
traffic  in  human  flesh. 

In  order  to  pursue  his  investigations  into  the 
subject  of  the  present  treatise,  and  to  obtain  first- 
hand information  calculated  to  assist  him  in  the 
remedying  of  other  evils,  especially  those  associated 
with  the  spread  of  leprosy,  Mr.  Tebb  has  travelled 
in  nearly  every  portion  of  the  globe. 

Failing  health  and  advancing  years  have  now 
compelled  him  to  leave  the  more  arduous  work 
connected  with  the  various  reforms  with  which  his 
name  is  associated,  and  which  owe  so  much  to  his 
zeal  and  enterprise,  to  younger  men,  whose  privilege 
it  ever  is  to  build  upon  the  foundations  laid  for 
them  by  the  self-sacrificing  efforts  of  old  pioneers 
who  have  stood  grimly  and  fearlessly  in  early  days 
against  the  odds  of  custom,  prejudice,  influence,  and 

My  own  work  in  the  present  volume  has  consisted 
largely  in  bringing  the  treatise  as  far  as  possible  up 


to  date.  Cases  of  less  importance,  appearing  in  the 
first  edition,  have  had  to  make  way  for  those  of 
greater  importance,  and  the  work  has  been  enlarged 
to  the  extent  of  fifty  extra  pages  in  order  to 
accommodate  new  material. 

The  greatest  care  has  been  taken  in  selecting  only 
such  illustrations  of  the  subjects  dealt  with  as  appear 
to  be  authentic,  and  on  this  account  much  reliance 
has  been  placed  upon  the  evidence  and  statements  of 
medical  men.  It  is  needless  to  say  that,  were  all  the 
evidence  which  has  accumulated  of  late  years  to  be 
printed,  it  would  require  a  volume  of  considerably 
larger  dimensions  than  the  present  one. 

The  evidence,  however,  which  has  been  adduced  is 
sufficient,  both  in  variety  and  directness,  to  arouse  the 
careful  and  thoughtful  reader  to  a  realisation  of  the 
important  question  which  is  hereby  raised,  and 
demands  that  prompt  action  be  taken  by  the  British 
legislature  in  order  to  guard  against  the  repetition 
in  this  country  of  the  many  awful  incidents  narrated 
in  the  following  pages. 


GLOUCESTER,  October,  1904. 


THE  fact  that  a  second  edition  of  this  work  has  been 
called  for  is  sufficient  evidence  of  the  interest  which 
the  subject  of  Premature  Burial  has  created  in  the 
public  mind.  There  are  still,  however,  persons  who 
look  upon  anyone  who  seriously  touches  this  question 
as  a  sensation-monger ;  but  among  the  masses  of  the 
people  of  to-day,  especially  of  the  more  thoughtful, 
there  is  an  undercurrent  of  suspicion  that  all  is  not 
right,  and  it  is  increasingly  felt  that  something  should 
be,  and  must  be,  done  to  remove  every  element  of 
•doubt  which  may  be  associated  with  the  delicate 
dividing  line  that  lies  between  latent  life  and  actual 

The  peculiar  directions  laid  down  by  numerous 
testators,  such  as  Herbert  Spencer,  Edmond  Yates, 
Miss  Frances  Power  Cobbe,  Wilkie  Collins,  and  others  ; 
the  feverish  search  for,  and  advocacy  of,  various  in- 
ventions by  way  of  injections,  of  physical  tests,  and 
of  "  safety  coffins "  ;  and  the  increasing  popularity  of 
cremation,  all  point  to  the  anxiety  which  is  felt  lest 
the  horrible  fate  of  premature  burial  should  tragically 
•close  a  life's  career. 


It  is  to  be  regretted  that  medical  tradition  has; 
encouraged  the  idea  that  the  possibility  of  burying 
alive  is  absurd.  It  is  frequently  urged,  as  an  argu- 
ment against  our  contention,  that  no  such  irreparable 
mistake  as  is  implied  therein  is  ever  likely  to  be 
made  by  a  medical  man.  That  it  is  possible,  however, 
for  medical  men  to  make  the  serious  mistake  of 
certifying  as  "  dead "  persons  who  are  living  will  be 
amply  proved  in  the  following  pages  ;  but  when  it  is 
remembered  that  a  medical  man  is  entitled  by  law 
to  give  a  death-certificate  without  seeing  the  supposed 
dead  at  all,  and,  moreover,  that  this  is  the  usual 
practice,  it  will  be  readily  conceived  that  the  "  pro- 
tection "  claimed  for  the  public  does  not  rest  upon 
the  most  substantial  foundation. 

It  has  been  repeatedly  stated  that  the  numerous 
published  instances  of  premature  coffinment,  premature 
burial,  and  narrow  escapes,  have  never  been  corrobo- 
rated. Some  writers,  with  amazing  assumption,  have 
gone  so  far  as  to  state  that  "  not  a  single  instance 
of  premature  burial  has  ever  been  substantiated  by 
evidence  such  as  would  carry  conviction  to  a  critical 
mind."  I  ask,  in  reply,  why  is  it  that,  of  the  numerous 
instances  which  have  been  published  from  time  to 
time,  any  attempt  at  disproof  has  rarely,  if  ever,  been 
forthcoming  ? 

If,  however,  but  a  tithe  of  the  hundreds  of  horrifying 


tragedies  which  have  been  collected  and  recorded 
by  many  scientific  and  painstaking  authorities  are 
true,  they  form  a  sufficient  ground  for  the  fear 
that,  owing  to  the  laxity  of  our  laws,  a  still  larger 
number  are  consigned  to  the  ghastliest  of  deaths. 
And  when,  in  addition  to  the  fact  that  death- 
certificates  are  usually  given  without  any  medical 
inspection  at  all,  it  is  remembered  that  the  Home 
Secretary,  on  the  5th  of  March,  1903,  reported  over 
fifty-three  thousand  burials  during  the  past  five  years 
without  even  the  formality  of  certifying  the  causes 
of  death,  the  sense  of  security  will  not  be  by  any 
means  encouraged. 

In  commenting  upon  a  Bill  which  has  been  laid 
before  the  Massachusetts  Legislature  for  the  purpose  of 
guarding  against  premature  burial,  the  Medical  Press 
of  April  27,  1904,  describes  the  stringent  tests  of 
death  which  are  therein  proposed  for  adoption  as 
"elaborate  nonsense,"  and  the  fear  of  being  buried 
alive  is  ridiculed  by  the  editor  as  a  "bogey."  This 
is  not  in  accordance  with  the  views  of  the  most 
eminent  authorities  in  Europe,  who  have  again  and 
again  declared  the  danger  to  be  a  real  one.  The  late 
Professor  Huxley,  F.R.S.,  testified  that  the  "sign  of 
death  was  an  extraordinarily  difficult  question,"  and 
Sir  Benjamin  Ward  Richardson,  after  many  years  of 
investigation,  finally  stated,  in  the  Asclepiad,  that  the 


only  trustworthy  sign  of  death  was  "  distinct  indication 
of  putrefactive  decomposition." 

Direct    evidence    as    to    premature    burial    is    very 
difficult  to   obtain,  as   the   proportion  of  disinterments 
to    burials    is   only  about   one   in    fifty  thousand ;    but 
there  is   sufficient  evidence   to   show   that   the    danger 
exists.     Dr.  Franz    Hartmann,  who   has   devoted    con- 
siderable attention   to   this   subject,   states   that   during 
the   months  of  May  and    June,    1896,  he    received    no 
less    than    sixty-three    letters    from    people    who    had 
escaped   burial   alive  at  the  last   moment.       In   all,  he 
has  collected  over  seven  hundred  cases,  and  furnished 
details  of  over  one  hundred.      The  Lancet  has  borne 
frequent  testimony  to  these  disasters  ;  and  in  its  issue 
of  September   12,   1896,  p.  785,  is  recorded  the  follow- 
ing from    its    Cork    correspondent   as    having   occurred 
at    Little    Island,    Ireland,    which,    the    writer    says,    is 
thoroughly  vouched    for: — "A  child    of   four    years    of 
age    contracted    (typhoid)    fever,    and    to    all    ordinary 
appearances    died.       The    time    of    the    funeral    was 
appointed,    and    friends    were    actually    on    their    way 
to  attend   it.      When   the  supposed    corpse  was  about 
to    be    removed    from    the    bed    to    the    coffin    signs 
of   animation    were    exhibited.      The    services    of    the 
medical   man   were  again  requisitioned,  and   the  child, 
opportunely    rescued    from    such    a    terrible    death,    is 
now  progressing  satisfactorily." 


A  "death"  occurred  in  Cheltenham  some  years  ago, 
of  which  I  was  informed  by  a  lady  who  was  in  the 
house  at  the  time.  The  funeral  arrangements  were 
in  full  operation,  when  the  "  corpse " — a  gentleman 
of  over  seventy  years  of  age — sat  up,  and  lived  for 
more  than  two  years  in  the  full  enjoyment  of  his 
faculties,  notwithstanding  the  fact  that  he  had  been 
certified  dead !  A  gentleman  of  my  acquaintance, 
living  in  Brussels  at  the  present  time,  was,  some  few 
years  ago,  certified  as  dead  by  his  medical  attendant, 
laid  out  for  dead,  and  was  just  on  the  point  of 
being  carried  to  the  grave,  when  he  gave  signs  of 
life.  Instances  such  as  these  point  conclusively  to 
the  dangers  and  the  risks  associated  with  death- 
counterfeits,  and  the  necessity  there  is  to  consider 
seriously  how  such  dangers  and  risks  may  be  avoided. 

The  law  protects  the  citizen's  life,  property,  and 
every  other  interest  up  to  the  moment  when  the  death 
scene  supervenes;  then  it  leaves  him,  and  provides  no 
protection  whatever  against  mistakes  which  may  be 
made  at  this  supreme  crisis.  The  extensive  Biblio- 
graphy at  the  close  of  this  volume  is  sufficient  to 
show  that  a  subject  which  has  created  so  much 
attention  among  the  highest  scientific  authorities  in 
this  and  other  countries  is  one  which  is  worthy  of 
immediate  and  earnest  consideration  by  the  Legis- 
lature. Every  citizen  has  a  fundamental  right  to  life, 


and  in  the  interests  of  the  citizen,  of  his  family,  and 
of  the  State,  the  latter  should  protect  that  right  by 
every  means  in  its  power,  by  guarding  against  its 
sacrifice.  The  Medical  Times  and  Hospital  Gazette 
of  April  1 8,  1903,  in  a  leading  article  on  death- 
certification,  has  well  said: — "It  must  be  remembered, 
as  we  have  more  than  once  demonstrated,  that  there 
is  a  powerful  and  increasing  body  of  public  opinion 
in  this  country  demanding  some  safeguard  against 
what  is  believed  to  be  the  possibility  of  burial  alive, 
in  consequence  of  the  present  laxity  of  the  law." 

Our  object  is  to  press  upon  the  public  the  urgent 
necessity  of  enactment  by  Parliament — That  no  medical 
certificate  of  death  shall  be  accepted  unless  the  person 
signing  it  shall  have  seen  and  carefully  examined  the 
body  of  the  person  so  certified  ;  that  such  body  shall 
not  be  buried  until  the  first  sign  of  putrefaction  is 
apparent ;  and  that,  in  the  interests  of  life  and  health, 
attractive  waiting  mortuaries,  somewhat  after  the 
pattern  of  those  erected  on  the  Continent  (described 
in  chapter  xxii.  of  this  edition),  shall  be  provided  by 
every  sanitary  district  in  the  kingdom. 

WALTER    R.    HAD  WEN. 



"  An  attempt  to  show  that  very  great  dangers  exist  from  out 
neglect  of  basing  the  decision  that  death  has  taken  place  upon  any 
symptom  but  the  absolute  one  of  putrefaction  has  just  been  made 
in  a  very  interesting  book,  entitled  '  Premature  Burial.'  To  do  this 
a  very  great  number  of  cases  of  premature  burial  have  been  collected 
and  set  forth.  We  are  shown  that  these  cases  in  fact  occurred,  be- 
cause men  are  apt  to  count  as  signs  of  death  signs  which  are  not 
absolute,  and  may  only  indicate  suspended  animation.  From  this  the 
writers  argue,  and  as  we  think  justly,  that  there  should  be  a  change 
of  the  law  as  regards  death  certification,  and  as  to  the  treatment  of 
bodies  before  interment." 


"  The  work  on  '  Premature  Burial,'  by  Mr.  Tebb  and  Col.  E.  P. 
Vollum,  has  already  attracted  considerable  notice,  but  we  have  not 
been  able  to  notice  it  as  early  as  it  deserved.  The  subject  is  a  pain- 
ful one,  and  it  demands  more  attention  than  has  yet  been  give  to  it, 
though  the  twenty  or  more  pages  of  the  bibliography  of  the  subject 
appended  to  this  volume  show  that  it  has  not  been  neglected.  But 
from  the  frequency  of  the  occurrences  described,  we  are  led  to  be- 
lieve that  people  generally,  and  ordinary  medical  practitioners,  do 
not  appreciate  the  seriousness  of  the  matter.  Without  entering  into 
details,  we  hope  that  this  book  will  meet  with  the  attention  it  de- 
serves, and  that  it  may  be  the  means  of  saving  many  people  in  future 
from  that  most  horrible  fate  imaginable,  known  as  a  '  living  tomb.'  ' 


"  A  work  well  worthy  of  serious  consideration.  It  would  seem 
that  the  Government  might  do  worse  than  appoint  a  Royal  Com- 
mission to  inquire  into  the  whole  subject  of  such  allegations." 


"  '  Premature  Burial  '  deals  with  a  subject  that  is  a  real  source 
of  anxiety  to  a  good  many  people,  and  which,  to  the  disgrace  of  the 
legislature,  is  not  an  altogether  unreasonable  trouble.  We  are  too 
casual  in  our  methods  of  death  registration  ;  too  much  latitude  is 
given  to  registrars  of  deaths,  who,  in  the  large  majority  of  cases, 
receive  certificates  from  medical  men  who  have  not  actually  seen 

30  OPINIONS    OF    THE    PRESS. 

the  remains  of  those  whose  deaths  they  certify.  We  must  do  the 
authors  the  justice  to  acknowledge  that  they  have  not  quoted  the 
very  ghastly  cases  on  record,  but  those  from  reliable  and  scientific 
men,  who  may  be  presumed  to  write  without  bias.  Correspondence 
in  our  own  columns  has  shown  that  the  fear  of  premature  burial  is 
tolerably  widespread,  and  if  such  books  as  this  lead  to  the  exercise 
of  more  care  on  the  part  of  responsible  authorities,  they  will  have 
done  good  service.  Altogether,  it  is  a  more  reasonable  book  on  this 
subject  than  one  generally  gets  hold  of." 


"  In  the  houses  of  the  poor  the  delay  (between  death  and  burial) 
is  a  cause  of  sorrowful  inconvenience,  and  sometimes  it  is  objected 
to  on  sanitary  grounds.  Neither  of  these  considerations,  however, 
can  be  allowed  to  weigh  for  a  moment  against  the  supreme  im- 
portance of  verifying  the  fact  of  death.  This  is  a  point  as  to  which 
it  is  to  be  hoped  there  will  be  no  giving  way  on  the  part  of  the 
conservative  instincts  of  our  people.  So  long  as  it  is  maintained, 
there  can  be  no  appreciable  danger  of  the  frightful  contingency  of 
premature  inhumation." 


"  Unfortunately  the  fact  is  beyond  dispute  that  many  people  have 
been  buried  alive,  and  have  regained  consciousness  within  the  coffin. 
Enough  air  is  buried  with  a  man  in  a  coffin  to  support  life  for  a 
certain  number  of  hours,  and  even  beyond  that  air  will  filter  through 


"  The  book  sets  forth,  with  an  extensive  learning  in  the  literature 
of  its  subject  (of  which  it  gives  a  full  bibliography),  a  number  of 
cases  of  live  sepulture,  and  uses  them  as  the  basis  of  an  argument 
for  legislation  to  establish  waiting  mortuaries,  and  take  other  pre- 
cautions against  such  interments.  The  book  will  prove  useful  to 
anyone  interested  in  its  subject. 


"  Society  is  indebted  to  the  authors  for  a  scientific  and  tem- 
perately written  treatise,  in  which  the  more  sensational  and 
horrifying  cases  are  avoided,  with  the  view  of  sparing  the  reader 
unnecessary  pain.  There  can  be  no  question  that  the  sooner  this 
subject  is  actively  dealt  with  the  better  for  the  community." 


"  An  important  work  containing  a  vast  amount  of  unimpeachable 
evidence  to  show  that  a  very  real  danger  exists,  and  that  strong 
measures  ought  to  be  taken  to  safeguard  the  public  against  it." 

OPINIONS    OF    THE    PRESS.  31 


"  Horrible  as  are  some  of  the  details,  they  enforce  the  authors' 
plea  for  more  careful  examination  of  the  presumably  dead,  and  their 
arguments  have  great  force." 


"  The  moral  of  the  book  is  that  burial  alive  is  a  far  greater 
danger  than  most  people  suppose." 


"  That  there  is  real  danger  in  hurried  interments,  no  one  who 
glances  at  this  volume  can  doubt,  and  the  authors'  contention  that 
the  subject  of  the  book  should  be  legislated  upon  is  reasonable.  The 
book  is  greatly  enhanced  in  value  by  an  exhaustive  bibliography  and 
an  excellent  index." 


"  The  whole  subject  is  exhaustively  treated  in  this  volume,  which 
people  interested  would  do  well  to  give  their  careful  perusal.  It  is 
extremely  well  done." 


11  A  valuable  and  interesting  volume." 


"  The  work  sets  forth  some  very  convincing  statements,  and  has 
fully  justified  the  authors  in  presenting  their  joint  opinion  on  a 
subject  that  ought  to  concern  the  community.  They  adduce  quite  a 
plethora  of  evidence  to  sustain  their  contention." 


"  An  elaborate  treatise  touching  every  side  of  this  subject  bears 
the  signatures  of  William  Tebb,  F.R.G.S.,  and  Colonel  Edward 
Perry  Vollum,  M.D.,  both  of  whom  have  had  personal  experiences 
of  a  kind  that  leads  them  to  think  that  many  people  are  daily  buried 
alive.  The  uncertainty  of  the  signs  of  death  is  dealt  with  at  great 
length,  and  historical  and  contemporaneous  cases  of  recovery  from 
apparent  death  are  cited." 


"  The  subject  of  premature  burial  is  one  of  universal  interest,  and 
those  who  have  it  at  heart  cannot  do  better  than  make  themselves 
as  familiar  with  the  subject  as  the  exhaustive  work  before  us  admits. 
The  writers  have  brought  together  a  mass  of  facts  and  figures  bear- 
ing on  the  question,  and  their  conclusions  are  not  to  be  denied  or 
their  labour  undervalued.  The  book  may  strike  a  chord  of  interest, 
and  arrest  an  attention  that  will  be  the  means  of  a  thorough  recon- 
sideration of  our  burial  customs." 

32  OPINIONS    OF    THE    PRESS. 


"As  the  study  of  these  counterfeits  of  death  forms  no  part  of  the 
ordinary  medical  curriculum,  it  is  no  great  wonder  that  these  fatal 
and  terrible  mistakes  do  occur.  The  subject  is  one  of  deep  and  vital 
interest  to  the  whole  community." 


"  There  is  no  doubt  that  the  law  should  require  a  certificate  from 
the  doctor,  not  only  that  he  had  attended  the  patient  in  his  last 
illness,  and  that  he  was  suffering  from  a  disease  likely  to  cause 
death,  but  that  he  (the  doctor)  had  also  inspected  the  body  and  had 
satisfied  himself  of  the  fact  that  death  had  actually  occurred." 


"  The  book  is  calculated  to  arouse  public  interest  in  an  important 
but  much  neglected  subject,  and  it  will  be  well  for  it  to  receive  that 
attention  to  which  the  gravity  of  the  question  entitles  it." 


"  The  book  is  nicely  got  up,  and  is  of  a  popular  readable  char- 
acter. " 


"  An  able  and  elaborate  monograph,  which  it  treats  in  the  most 
thorough  and  exhaustive  fashion,  with  innumerable  references  and  a 
bibliography  of  the  \vhole  subject  in  many  tongues.  It  is  simply 
horrifying  to  learn  that  the  risk  of  being  buried  alive  is  quite  real, 
and  considerably  greater  than  ordinary  persons  imagine." 


"  No  one  with  an  open  mind  could  read  the  volume  without 
coming  to  the  conclusion  that  the  authors  had  succeeded  in  estab- 
lishing a  very  strong  case." 


"  The  subject  of  this  book  is  of  deep  and  universal  interest,  and 
should  be  specially  so  to  all  who  are  concerned  with  our  physical  well- 
being  and  the  preservation  of  healthy  human  life  to  the  utmost 
limit  that  nature  permits.  Indeed,  its  importance  is  generally 
recognised  in  the  abstract  ;  but  little  is  done  or  attempted  to  give 
practical  effect  to  this  recognition.  No  doubt  this  is  mainly  due  to 
ignorance  or  inadvertence,  and  to  the  fallacy  too  often  fostered  by 
medical  authority  that  the  risk,  if  any,  is  so  utterly  insignificant  tha't 
practically  it  may  be  disregarded  as  of  no  moment  and  need  not  be 
taken  into  account.  As  a  matter  of  fact,  however,  the  writers  have 
clearly  shown  by  reference  to  well-authenticated  instances  that  such 
cases  are  not  so  infrequent  as  is  generally  supposed.  Indeed,  the 
newspapers  of  the  day  give  abundant  examples  of  those  who  have 

OPINIONS    OF    THE    PRESS.  33 

narrowly  escaped  this  ghastly  fate,  and  it  is  much  to  be  feared  that 
its  fatal  completion  is  still  more  common.  The  authors  of  this  book 
appear  each  to  have  pursued  a  separate  line  of  investigation  ;  the 
one  was  led,  to  it  from  the  circumstance  that  a  relative  was  believed 
to  be  the  subject  of  premature  burial,  and  the  other  from  having 
himself  been  laid  out  for  dead,  and  having  but  narrowly'  escaped 
that  terrible  catastrophe  against  which  he  now  raises  his  warning 
voice.  The  subject  under  consideration  has  of  late  been  much 
debated  in  the  newspapers,  but  the  interest  in  it  is  by  no  means  of 
recent  origin,  as  is  shown  by  the  bibliography  appended  to  this 
volume,  the  titles  of  books  and  pamphlets  on  the  subject  alone,  as 
there  given,  occupying  no  less  than  twenty-five  pages  ;  but  it  may 
well  be  doubted  if  it  has  ever  before  received  such  systematic  search- 
ing and  thorough  treatment  as  in  the  present  work. 

"  Fortunately,  this  is  no  class  or  party  question,  no  vested  interest 
is  threatened,  and  the  time  appears  singularly  opportune  for  prompt 
and  effective  legislation  to  allay  widespread  popular  apprehension, 
which,  unchecked,  might  become  a  panic." 


"  Of  all  the  various  forms  of  suspended  animation  and  apparent 
death,  trance  and  catalepsy  are  the  least  understood  and  the  most 
likely  to  lead  the  subject  of  them  to  a  premature  burial,  and 
to  these  the  authors  have  devoted  considerable  attention,  and  other 
interesting  chapters  deal  with  the  questions  of  animal  and  so-called 
human  hibernation,  premature  burial,  probable  causes  of  premature 
burial,  predisposing  causes  and  conditions  of  death-counterfeits,  the 
danger  of  hasty  burials,  the  signs  of  death,  the  duration  of  death 
counterfeits,  death  certification,  the  Jewish  practice  of  early  burial, 

"In  order  to  prevent  unnecessary  pain  to  the  reader  on  a 
subject  so  distressing  in  its  nature,  the  more  sensational  cases  of 
premature  burial  have  been  omitted,  but  these  can  be  found  in 
abundance  in  the  writings  of  Bruhier,  Koppen,  Kempner,  Lenor- 
mand,  Bouchut,  Russell  Fletcher,  and  others." 


11  '  Premature  Burial  '  deserves  careful  perusal  and  serious  con- 
sideration. We  fully  believe  the  medical  profession  are  blind,  as  a 
rule,  to  the  necessity  for  greater  care  in  the  giving  of  death  certifi- 
cates, and  that  the  danger  of  burying  people  who  have  not  really 
died  is  a  growing  and  ghastly  one.  The  numerous  cases  recorded 
in  this  volume  must  convince  any  unbiassed  reader  that  this  is  the 


"  This  book  is  a  substantial  well-printed  octavo  volume  of  four 
hundred  pages  divided  into  twenty-two  chapters,  each  dealing  with 
some  particular  phase  of  the  general  subject,  such  as  tranco. 
catalepsy,  premature  burial,  narrow  escapes  from  premature  burial, 
predisposing  causes  and  conditions  of  death  counterfeits,  the  danger 

34  OPINIONS    OF    THE    PRESS. 

of  hasty  burials,  death  certificates,  and  suggestions  for  prevention. 
The  authors  tell  us  that  the  work  has  been  prepared  with  the  view 
to  guiding  the  public  to  the  dangers  of  our  present  mode  of  treating 
the  apparently  dead,  in  the  hope  that  reforms  and  preventive 
measures  may  be  instituted  without  delay  in  order  to  put  an  end 
to  such  unnecessary  domestic  tragedies. 

"  There  are  also  six  appendices  and  a  valuable  bibliography. 
Although  attention  has  of  late  been  largely  directed  to  this  question 
by  discussions  in  the  press,  and  considerable  interest  in  it  has  been 
revived,  probably  many  will  be  surprised  to  find  that  the  question 
raised  is  by  no  means  of  recent  origin,  and  that  those  who  have 
written  upon  it  have  not  been  a  few  alarmists  and  faddists,  but  in 
many  cases  men  of  the  highest  reputation  and  scientific  attainment. 

"  Notwithstanding  the  number  of  books  mentioned  in  the  biblio- 
graphy appended  to  this  volume,  there  can  be  no  doubt  that  this 
is  the  most  valuable  and  important  contribution  to  the  literature  of 
the  subject  in  the  English  language  which  has  yet  appeared  ;  it  may 
not  be  such  attractive  reading  as  the  fashionable  novel,  and  some 
of  its  details  may  appear  gruesome,  but  its  importance  can  hardly 
be  over-estimated. 

"  The  book  is  thoroughly  scientific  in  its  spirit  and  its  treatment 
of  the  question  ;  it  is  temperately  written,  and  its  bibliography  a 
monument  of  careful  and  laborious  research,  its  exact  reference  to- 
the  numerous  authorities  quoted  makes  it  not  only  valuable  as  a 
useful  book  for  present  reading  but  for  future  reference.  We  cordially 
commend  it,  and  have  no  doubt  that  it  will  be  largely  instrumental 
in  attaining  the  laudable  object  for  which  it  has  been  written." 


"  Though  attempts  have  been  made  in  certain  quarters  to  pooh- 
pooh  the  subject,  no  one  who  reads  this  work  can  doubt  that  burial- 
alive  is  by  no  means  an  uncommon  occurrence.  There  is  ample 
reason  for  the  appearance  of  the  book." 


"A  priori,  one  would  think  that  it  is  easy  enough  to  tell  when  a 
man  is  dead,  or  at  least  for  the  qualified  medical  man  to  do  so.  But 
in  view  of  the  lamentable  mistakes  that  are  on  record,  one  comes 
to  the  conclusion  that  there  are  instances  where  it  is  very  difficult, 
if  not  impossible  for  anyone  to  say  for  certain  that  life  is  extinct. 
Time  alone  will  show." 


"  There  are  few  things  that  serve  to  inspire  in  men's  minds 
greater  terror  than  the  idea  of  being  buried  alive.  The  authors 
cite  a  number  of  cases  to  show  that  the  ceasing  of  the  principle  of 
life  to  manifest  its  activity  in  a  human  body  is  no  proof  of  actual 
death.  After  presenting  convincing  proofs  of  the  accuracy  and1 
frequency  of  such  cases,  they  proceed  to  formulate  methods  by  which 
the  cruel  practices  should  be  discouraged  for  the  future." 

OPINIONS    OF    THE    PRESS.  35 


"  Many  of  the  points  to  which  they  (the  authors)  draw  attention, 
the  perfunctory  fashion,  for  instance,  in  which  death  certificates  are 
made  out,  are  worthy  of  earnest  consideration." 


"  We  are  glad  to  see  that  Mr.  Tebb  and  Dr.  Vollum's  important 
work  on  '  Premature  Burial  and  how  it  may  be  Prevented  '  is  attract- 
ing considerable  attention.  The  book  has  special  reference  to  trance, 
catalepsy,  and  other  forms  of  suspended  animation,  and  is  therefore 
of  peculiar  interest  to  us.  It  is  not  at  all  necessary  to  attempt  to 
work  up  feeling  on  the  subject,  and  the  writers  of  this  book  avoid 
it.  They  are  practical  men,  and  understand  how  to  let  facts  speak 
for  themselves.  The  larger  half  of  the  book  deals  with  the  danger  ; 
and  here  the  demonstration  is  complete.  A  discussion  of  remedies 
follows,  the  one  most  relied  upon  being  mortuaries,  the  structure 
and  management  of  which  are  carefully  described.  These,  say  our 
authors,  '  ought  to  be  provided,  as  far  as  practicable,  in  every  parish, 
and  certainly  in  every  Sanitary  District  in  the  United  Kingdom, 
and  by  the  Boards  of  Health  in  the  United  States,  and  adapted  to 
the  requirements  of  the  population. '  We  entirely  agree.  This  is 
the  remedy,  as  anyone  would  see  who  would  carefully  read  Chapter 
XXI.  of  this  helpful  book,  a  chapter  which  ought  to  be  printed 
separately  and  well  distributed  to  county  and  parish  councils." 


"  This  book  is  essentially  practical,  well  written,  free  from  dry- 
ness  or  redundancy.  Though  it  does  not  profess  to  establish  an 
absolute  method  of  guaranteeing  us  all  from  the  horrors  of  prema- 
ture interment,  still  it  teems  with  so  much  practical  information  on 
the  subject  that  our  boasted  modern  sanitary  science  must  be  poor 
indeed  if  it  learns  naught  therefrom.  We  agree  with  its  implication 
that  from  an  over-worked  and  not  over-practical  Parliament  little 
amelioration  is  at  present  to  be  hoped  for,  but  that  assuredly  private 
initiative  in  these  days  of  philanthropic  associations  ought  to 
supplement  this.  And  no  better  step  can  be  taken  in  that  direction 
than  by  promoting  the  circulation  and  careful  perusal  of  the  most 
able  work  we  have  yet  encountered  on  this  all-important  subject." 


"  One  of  the  authors  visited  Ceylon,  at  the  beginning  of  this  year, 
and  cites  facts  from  the  customs  in  vogue  in  this  island  to  show  that 
there  is  absolutely  no  security  against  premature  burial,  with  the 
names  of  various  authorities.  Some  sensible  and  practical  sugges- 
tions are  made  to  prepare  the  way  for  bringing  about  certain  needed 


''The  pages  are  replete  with  instructive  though  at  times  gruesome 
details,  and  the  subject  is  one  of  such  vast  importance  that  it  would 

36  OPINIONS    OF    THE    PRESS. 

be  well  for  all  medical  men  who  are  not  already  familiar  with  its 
literature  to  read  the  book  and  remember  the  lesson  it  teaches.  Any- 
thing" must  be  welcome  which  will  tend  to  remove  the  senseless  fear 
of  the  dead,  and  prevent  friends  from  deserting  the  bedside  the 
moment  life  is  supposed  to  be  extinct,  giving  over  the  body  to  those 
who  will  immediately  take  steps  to  complete  the  extinction  rather 
than  to  fan  back  into  life  any  spark  of  vitality  which  may  remain 
in  a  doubtful  case." 


"  An  exhaustive  treatise  into  the  causes  of  premature  burial  and 
on  the  methods  of  preventing  this  terrible  danger,  which  is  likely  to 
attract  g-eneral  attention.  There  is  something-  about  the  mere  idea  of 
being  buried  alive  which  causes  one  to  shudder,  and  when  specialists 
affirm  that  the  number  of  cases  of  premature  burial  are  numbered  by 
thousands,  the  question  becomes  one  which  appeals  to  the  sympathy 
and  co-operation  of  the  community  at  large." 

BOSTON    (U.S.)    HERALD. 

"  The  authors  have  examined  into  the  causes  of  suspended  anima- 
tion, and  studied  the  literature  on  the  subject.  They  furnish  proofs 
to  show  that  many  people  are  buried  alive  in  all  countries  not  pro- 
tected by  laws.  The  present  serious  discussion  should  open  people's 
eyes  to  a  real  dang-er. " 



Preface  to  First  Edition        -  5 
Introduction  to  First  Edition 

Preface  to  Second  Edition     -  15 

Introduction  to  Second  Edition  23 

Opinions  of  the  Pyess  -  29 

Trance  4 1 

Catalepsy  57 

Animal  and  So-called  Human  Hibernation  68 

Premature  Burial  81 

Narrow  Escapes  from  Premature  Burial  -       98 

Formalities  and  their  Fatal  Consequences  -     133 

Premature  Burial  of  Doubtful  Cases    .  .V;..  -     141 



Predisposing  Causes  and  Conditions  of  Death- Counterfeits     149 


Premature  Burial  and  Cremation  in  India,     The   Towers 

of  Silence  159 

The  Danger  of  Hasty  Burials       -  175 


Fear  of  Premature  Burial    -  1 86 

Sudden  Death      -  194 

Signs  of  Death    -  219 

Duration  of  Death-Counterfeits      -  248 


The  Treatment  of  the  Dead  -  -     256 

Number  of  Cases  of  Premature  Burial  -  -261 


Embalming  and  Dissections  -         -  277 

Death-Certification        -  282 

Suggestions  for  Prevention    -  303 



Count  Karnice-Karnicki's  Invention        -  -     320 


Cremation  as  a  Preventive  -     324 

Waiting  Mortuaries  335 

Conclusion  -  -     366 

Historical  Cases  of  Restoration  from  Apparent  Death      -     371 


Resuscitation  of  Still-Born  and  other  Infants  -  -     386 

Recovery  of  the  Drowned  392 

Embalming  in  the  United  States  -  395 

Summary  of  Ordinances,  etc.,  Relating  to  the  Inspection  of 

Corpses  and  of  Interments      -  -     398 

The  Jewish  Practice  of  Early  Burial    -  406 

Bibliography  -     409 

Index          -         .         .  .         .         .     441 



William  Tebb  Frontispiece. 

Count  Karnice-Karnickis  Apparatus  -                        321 , 323 

Munich  Mortuary,  Exterior  -  -341 

Munich  Mortuary,  Interior    -  -     343, 345 

Munich  Mortuary,  Caretaker 's  Room  -    347 







OF  all  the  various  forms  of  suspended  animation  and 
apparent  death,  trance  and  catalepsy  are  the  least 
understood,  and  the  most  likely  to  lead  the  subject  of 
them  to  premature  burial ;  the  laws  which  control  them 
have  perplexed  pathologists  in  all  ages,  and  appear  to 
be  as  insoluble  as  those  which  govern  life  itself. 


In  an  interesting  article  upon  the  subject  by  A.  T. 
Myers,  M.A.,  M.D.,  M.R.C.P.,  which  appears  in  "  Fowler's 
Dictionary  of  Practical  Medicine,"  the  writer  says :  — 
"  Trance,  in  the  ordinary  sense,  is  a  term  of  somewhat 
vague  limits,  but  had  best,  perhaps,  be  confined  to  a 
prolonged  and  rare  condition  of  abnormal  sleep,  which 
is  produced  by  no  known  external  agency,  is  generally 

42  TRANCE. 

entirely  passive,  in  which  the  vital  functions  are  reduced 
to  an  abnormally  low  minimum,  and  from  which  the 
entranced  patients  cannot  be  aroused  by  such  ordinary 
excitants  as  would  be  more  than  sufficient  to  wake  them 
from  normal  sleep.  They  can  assimilate  food  artificially 
given,  and  may  remain  in  this  trance  condition  for  as 
long  as  twenty-three  weeks  (Gairdner),  or  even  for  a 
year  (P.  Richer).  .  .  .  There  is  an  absence,  complete 
or  incomplete,  of  sensation,  and,  in  a  less  degree,  of 
motion  ;  and  of  deep  and  superficial  muscular  reflexes. 
The  breathing  becomes  nearly  imperceptible,  it  may 
even  be  impossible  to  see  any  cloud  on  a  clear  mirror 
held  before  the  mouth  ;  the  respiratory  movements  may 
be  imperceptible,  or  at  least  so  infrequent  as  three  in 
two  minutes,  the  pulse  and  the  action  of  the  heart  may 
be  impalpable,  though  the  condition  of  the  retina  will 
show  that  very  slow  circulation  is  still  being  kept  up. 
The  temperature  is  low,  but  has  not  been  observed  below 

97°  F.» 


In  Fagge  &  Pye  Smith's  Text-book  of  Medicine,  4th 
edition,  vol.  L,  p.  972,  the  authors,  commenting  upon  the 
symptoms  as  described  above,  remark: — "These  are  the 
cases  \vhich  have  led  to  the  popular  belief  that  death  is 
sometimes  only  apparent,  and  that  there  may  be  a 
danger  of  persons  being  buried  alive ;  and  it  cannot  be 
denied  that  a  patient  in  such  a  condition  may  easily  be 
allowed  to  die  by  careless  or  ignorant  attendants,  or 
might  be  buried  before  death."  Dr.  Herbert  Mayo,  in 
"  Letters  on  Truths  contained  in  Popular  Superstitions," 
p.  34,  after  detailing  similar  signs  and  symptoms,  asserts : 
— "  There  has  occurred  every  shade  of  this  condition  that 


can  be  imagined,  between  the  occasional  slight  mani- 
festations of  suspension  of  one  or  other  of  the  vital 
functions,  and  their  entire  disparition."  He  adds: — "  In 
any  form  of  disease  where  the  body  is  brought  into  a 
certain  state  of  debility,  death-trance  may  supervene." 

Macnish,  who  says  the  function  of  the  heart  must 
go  on,  and  even  of  the  lungs,  however  slightly, 
declares  : — "  No  affection  to  which  the  animal  frame  is 
subject,  is  more  remarkable  than  this.  .  .  .  There  is 
such  an  apparent  extinction  of  every  faculty  essential  to 
life,  that  it  is  inconceivable  how  existence  should  go  on 
during  the  continuance  of  the  fit." — (Philosophy  of 
Sleep,  Glasgow,  1834,  pp.  225-6.) 

In  "  Quain's  Dictionary  of  Medicine,"  1902,  Dr.  W.  R. 
Gowers  says  : — "  The  mental  functions  seem  in  most  cases 
to  be  in  complete  abeyance.  No  manifestation  of 
consciousness  can  be  observed  or  elicited  by  the  most 
powerful  cutaneous  stimulation,  and  on  recovery  no 
recollection  of  the  state  is  preserved ;  but  in  some 
Ceases  volition  only  is  lost,  and  the  patient  is  aware  of  all 
that  passes,  although  unable  to  give  the  slightest 
evidence  of  consciousness." 

"In  the  cases  in  which  the  depression  of  the  vital 
functions  reaches  an  extreme  degree,  the  patient  appears 
dead  to  casual,  and  sometimes  to  careful,  observation. 
This  condition  has  been  termed  'death-trance'  (Schein- 
tod).  Persons  have  certainly  been  buried  in  this  state; 
and  during  the  recent  epidemic  of  influenza,  an  Italian 
narrowly  escaped  interment  during  the  consequent  trance." 

Dr.  Gowers  quotes  a  well-authenticated  case  mentioned 
by  Mr.  John  Chippendale,  F.R.C.S.,  in  the  Lancet,  1889, 
vol.  i.,  p.  1,173,  °f  a  man,  who  during  an  illness  was 

44  TRANCE. 

seized  with  trance,  and  who  yet,  whilst  lying  in  "  cold 
abstraction,"  was  aware  of  all  that  was  passing.  At  last, 
as  he  was  about  to  be  covered  in  his  coffin,  his  mental 
condition  was  such,  that  he  broke  into  a  profuse  sweat, 
which  was  fortunately  perceived,  and  he  recovered,  and 
was  able  to  recount  his  experiences. 

He  further  mentions  a  case,  observed  by  Rosenthal, 
where,  thirty  hours  after  supposed  death,  the  muscles 
were  still  excitable,  and  in  forty  hours  the  patient  awoke. 

Dr.  Mason  Good,  in  "  Standard  of  Medicine,"  vol.  v.,  p. 
6 1 -8,  relates  a  case  of  "  death-trance,"  in  which  a  patient 
was  fortunate  enough  to  have  her  interment  postponed  in 
order  to  allow  a  post  mortem  (!)  examination  to  be  made. 
On  being  submitted  to  the  scalpel,  the  first  touch 
brought  her  to  her  senses,  and  threw  her  into  a  state  of 
violent  agitation,  the  anatomist  being  almost  as  frightened 
as  herself. 


Hufeland  says  in  his  "  Uncertainty  of  Death "  : — 
"  It  often  happens  that  a  person  is  buried  in  a  trance, 
knowing  all  the  preparations  for  the  interment,  and  this 
affects  him  so  much  that  it  prolongs  the  trance  by  its 
depressing  influence.  How  long  can  a  man  exist  in  a 
state  of  trance  ?  Is  there  no  sign  by  which  the  remain- 
ing spark  of  life  may  be  recognised  ?  Do  no  means 
exist  to  prevent  awakening  in  the  grave  ?  Nothing  can 
be  said  as  to  its  duration  ;  but  we  do  know  that  differ- 
ences in  the  cause  and  circumstances  will  cause  a  differ- 
ence in  duration.  The  amount  of  strength  of  the  person 
would  have  great  effect  in  this.  Weak  persons,  broken 
down  by  excesses,  would  die  sooner  than  the  strong. 



The  nature  of  the  disease  would  make  a  difference. 
Old  age  is  less  liable  to  trance  than  the  young.  Long 
sickness  destroys  the  sources  of  life,  and  shortens  the 
process  of  death.  Sorrow  and  trouble,  and  numerous 
Diseases,  seem  to  bring  on  death ;  yet  ofttimes  the  source 
of  life  in  them  exists  to  its  full  extent,  and  what  seems 
in  them  to  be  death  may  be  only  a  fainting  fit,  or  cramp, 
which  temporarily  interrupts  the  action  of  life.  Women 
are  more  liable  to  trance  than  men  ;  most  cases  have 
happened  in  them.  Trance  may  exist  in  the  new-born  ; 
give  them  time,  and  many  of  them  revive.  The  smell 
of  the  earth  is  at  times  sufficient  to  wake  up  a  case  of 
trance.  Six  or  seven  days,  or  longer,  are  often  required 
to  restore  such  cases."  (Extracted  from  pp.  10-24.) 


Many  notable  persons  have  at  one  time  or  another  been 
subject  to  this  disorder.  Speaking  of  Benjamin  Disraeli, 
Mr.  J.  Fitzgerald  Molloy,  in  his  "  Life  of  the  Gorgeous 
Lady  Blessington,"  vol.  xi.,  pp.  37-38,  says  that  in  his 
youth  he  was  seized  with  fits  of  giddiness  during  which 
the  world  would  swing  round  him  ;  he  became  abstracted 
and  once  fell  into  a  trance,  from  which  he  did  not  recover 
for  a  week. 

The  mother  of  General  Lee,  the  well-known  Confede- 
rate General  in  the  American  Civil  War,  was  subject  to 
trance  seizures,  and  on  one  occasion  was  pronounced 
dead  by  the  physician,  and  "  buried."  Whilst,  however,  the 
sexton  was  filling  in  the  grave,  he  heard  loud  crying  and 
knocking,  and  Mrs.  Lee  was  rescued  from  her  perilous 
position  and  a  horrible  fate. 

A  romantic  but  true  story  attaches  to   Mount   Edg- 

46  TRANCE. 

cumbe.  In  the  church  which  adjoins  the  estate,  the 
grandmother  of  the  present  earl  was  buried  alive.  In  a 
trance  she  was  laid  for  dead  in  the  family  vault.  It  was 
known  that  upon  one  of  her  fingers  was  a  precious  ring. 
The  sexton  went  at  dead  of  night,  and  endeavoured  to* 
force  the  trinket  from  the  lady's  hand.  It  aroused 
her,  and  she  sat  up.  The  man  fled  in  terror,  leaving  the 
doors  of  the  vault  and  church  open.  Lady  Mount 
Edgcumbe  walked  to  her  house  in  her  shroud.  Upon 
being  received  by  her  husband  she  fainted.  When  she 
revived,  she  found  herself  in  bed,  dressed  in  her  ordinary 
sleeping  attire.  She  was  induced  to  believe  that  she 
had  been  the  victim  of  a  hideous  nightmare,  and  never 
knew  the  real  circumstances. 

The  late  Madame  Blavatsky  was  subject  to  death- 
like trances,  and  Dr.  Franz  Hartmann  informs  me  that 
she  would  have  been  buried  alive  if  Colonel  Olcott  had 
not  telegraphed  to  let  her  have  time  to  awaken. 

Schwartz,  the  first  eminent  Indian  missionary,  was 
roused  from  his  supposed  death  by  hearing  his  favourite 
hymn  sung  over  him  previous  to  the  last  rites  being 
performed,  and  his  resuscitation  was  made  known  by  his 
joining  in  the  verse. 


The  Lancet,  of  December  22,  1883,  pp.  1078-80, 
contains  particulars  from  the  pen  of  W.  T.  Gairdner, 
M.D.,  L  L.D.,  etc.,  Professor  of  Medicine  in  the  Uni- 
versity of  Glasgow,  of  a  remarkable  case  of  trance,, 
extending  continuously  over  more  than  twenty-three 
weeks,  which  attracted  a  considerable  amount  of  notoriety 
at  the  time,  and  led  to  an  extensive  discussion.  In  his 


comments  upon  the  case,  the  author  continues  in  the 
issue  of  January  5,  1884,  pp.  5-6: — "The  peculiar  in- 
terest of  the  present  case  is  that  it  is  altogether  devoid 
of  ...  romantic  incidents.  The  patient  is  a  mother 
of  a  family,  and  has  lived  a  strictly  domestic  and  (up  to 
a  short  time  before  her  seizure)  healthy  and  regular  life. 
There  is  no  history  of  inveterate  hysteria,  or  of  long 
continued  rapt  contemplation ;  nor  has  there  been  the 
slightest  evidence  of  any  craving  after  notoriety,  either 
before  the  attack,  or  since  its  termination.  The  moral 
atmosphere,  in  short,  surrounding  the  phenomena,  is  alto- 
gether unfavourable  to  exaggeration  and  imposture,  for 
which,  indeed,  no  reasonable  motive  can  be  assigned. 
Nevertheless,  under  these  very  commonplace  conditions, 
concurring  with  some  degree  of  melancholy  or  mental 
despondency  after  delivery,  but,  during  a  convalescence 

otherwise  normal,  Mrs.  M'l presents  to  our  notice  a 

condition  of  suspended  consciousness  and  disordered  in- 
nervation  in  no  degree  less  extreme  than  the  "  trances  " 
or  cataleptic  attacks  which  have  been  recorded  as  the 
result  of  the  most  aggravated  hysteria,  or  as  the  miracles 
of  religious  ecstacy  and  profound  mental  emotion.  She 
becomes,  for  the  long  period  of  over  a  hundred  and  sixty 
days  continuously,  an  almost  mindless  automaton,  con- 
nected with  the  external  world  only  through  a  few 
insignificant  reflexes,  and  through  the  organic  functions. 
She  is  absolutely  passive  as  regards  everything  that 
demands  spontaneous  movement,  and  betrays  almost  no 
sign  of  sensation,  general  or  special,  when  subjected  to  the 
several  tests  that  can  be  applied  short  of  physical  injury." 
In  further  notes  upon  the  case  in  the  Lancet,  of  January 
12,  1884,  p.  58,  Professor  Gairdner  cites  the  case  of  a 

48  TRANCE. 

woman  of  small  stature,  and  weak  mental  capacity,  aged 
27,  who,  when  under  the  care  of  Dr.  Langdon  Down,  at 
the  London  Hospital,  became  suddenly  somnolent,  and 
had  to  be  fed  by  nutrient  enemata  for  three  weeks,  and 
for  some  days  by  a  tube  forced  through  the  nostrils  into 
the  stomach.  Dr.  Langdon  Down  furnished  him  with 
the  following  interesting  particulars. 

"  My  patient,  who  was  in  a  state  of  trance,  recovered 
somewhat  suddenly  after  about  four  weeks,  and  left  the 
hospital.  The  first  indication  of  returning  consciousness 
was  observed  when  I  was  reading  to  my  class  at  her  bed- 
side one  of  the  numerous  letters  that  I  had  received  en- 
treating me  not  to  have  her  buried  until  something  which 
the  writers  recommended  had  been  done.  The  para- 
graph of  the  Medical  Journal  got  into  some  Welsh  paper, 
and  then  went  the  round  of  the  provincial  press  ;  hence 
the  number  of  letters  I  received.  This  special  one  was 
from  an  old  gentleman  of  84  years,  who,  when  he  was 
24,  was  thought  to  be  dead,  and  whose  friends  had 
assembled  to  follow  him  to  the  grave,  when  he  heard  the 
undertaker  say  : — '  Would  anyone  like  to  see  the  corpse 
before  I  screw  him  down  ?  '  The  undertaker  at  the  same 
time  moved  the  head  a  little,  and  struck  it  against  the 
coffin,  on  which  he  aroused,  and  sat  up.  On  reading  this 
aloud  a  visible  smile  passed  over  the  face  of  my  patient, 
and  she  returned  to  obvious  consciousness  soon  after. 
She  has  not  come  under  observation  since  she  left  the 


Thomas  More  Madden,  M.D.,  F.R.C.S.  (Edin.),  in  an 
article  on  "  Death's  Counterfeit "  in  the  Medical  Press 


and  Circular,  vol.  i.,  April  27,  1887,  pp.  386-8,  relates 
the  following  cases  of  "  so-called  hysteric  trance  "  : — 

"  A  young  lady,  Miss   R ,   apparently    in    perfect 

health,  went  to  her  room  after  luncheon  to  make  some 
change  in  her  dress.  A  few  minutes  afterwards  she  was 
found  lying  on  her  bed  in  a  profound  sleep,  from  which 
she  could  not  be  awakened.  When  I  first  saw  her 
twenty-four  hours  later,  she  was  sleeping  tranquilly,  the 
decubitus  being  dorsal,  respiration  scarcely  perceptible, 
pulse  seventy,  and  extremely  small  ;  her  face  was  pallid, 
lips  motionless,  and  the  extremities  very  cold.  At  this 
moment,  so  death-like  was  her  aspect,  that  a  casual 
observer  might  have  doubted  the  possibility  of  the  vital 
spark  still  lingering  in  that  apparently  inanimate  frame, 
on  which  no  external  stimulus  seemed  to  produce  any 
sensorial  impression,  with  the  exception  that  the  pupils 
were  normal  and  responded  to  light.  Sinapisms  were 
applied  over  the  heart  and  the  legs,  where  they  were  left 
on  until  vesication  was  occasioned  without  causing  any 
evidence  of  pain.  Faradisation  was  also  resorted  to 
without  effect.  In  this  state  she  remained  from  the 
evening  of  December  3ist  until  the  afternoon  of  January 
3rd,  when  the  pulse  became  completely  imperceptible  ; 
the  surface  of  the  body  was  icy  cold,  the  respiratory 
movements  apparently  ceased,  and  her  condition  was 
to  all  outward  appearance  undistinguishable  from  death. 
Under  the  influence  of  repeated  hypodermic  injections 
of  sulphuric  ether  and  other  remedies,  however,  she 
rallied  somewhat,  and  her  pulse  and  temperature 
improved.  But  she  still  slept  on  until  the  morning  of 
the  Qth,  when  she  suddenly  woke  up,  and  to  the  great 
astonishment  of  those  about  her,  called  for  her  clothes, 

50  TRANCE. 

which  had  been  removed  from  their  ordinary  place,  and 
wanted  to  come  down  to  breakfast,  without  the  least 
consciousness  of  what  had  occurred.  Her  recovery,  I 
may  add,  was  rapid  and  complete. 

"  The  next  case  of  lethargy  that  came  under  my 
notice  was  that  of  a  boy,  who,  after  an  attack  of  fever,  fell 
into  a  state  of  complete  lethargic  coma,  in  which  he  lay 
insensible  between  life  and  death  for  forty-seven  days, 
and  ultimately  recovered  perfectly. 

"  In  a  third  instance  of  the  same  kind,  in  a  lady 
under  my  care,  the  patient,  after  a  lethargic  sleep  of 
twenty-seven  days,  recovered  consciousness  for  a  few 
hours,  and  then  relapsed  into  her  former  comatose 
condition,  in  which  she  died. 

"  The  fourth  case  of  lethargy  which  I  have  seen  was, 
like  the  first,  a  case  of  trance,  which  lasted  for  seventy 
hours,  during  which  the  flickering  vital  spark  was  only 
preserved  from  extinction  by  the  involuntary  action  of 
the  spinal  and  nervous  centres.  In  this  instance  the 
patient  finally  recovered. 

"  The  fifth  and  last  instance  of  profound  lethargy  that 
has  come  within  my  own  observation  occurred  last 
autumn,  in  the  Mater  Misericordiae  Hospital,  in  a  young 

woman In  that  instance,  despite  all  that 

medical  skill  could  suggest,  or  unremitting  attention 
could  do,  it  was  found  impossible  to  arouse  the  patient 
from  the  apparently  hysterical  lethargic  sleep  in  which 
she  ultimately  sank  and  died." 

I  have  referred  to  the  foregoing  cases  occurring  in  one 
physician's  experience,  as  disproving  the  general  opinion 
that  lethargy  or  trance  is  so  rarely  met  with  as  to  be  of 
little  medical  importance.  For  my  own  part,  I  have  no 


doubt  that  these  conditions  are  of  far  more  frequent  oc- 
currence than  is  generally  supposed.  Moreover,  I  have 
had  reason  to  know  that  death  is  occasionally  so 
exactly  thus  counterfeited  that  there  is  good  cause  for 
fearing  the  probability  of  living  interment  in  some  cases 
of  hasty  burial. 


Dr.  Madden  observes  concerning  "  Death-Trance  "  : — 
"  Although  the  majority  of  cases  in  which  persons  in  this 
condition  are  said  to  have  been  consigned  to  the  horrors 
of  a  living  tomb  have  even  less  vraisemblance  than  the 
tale  which  Edgar  Poe  founded  on  the  same  topic,  still 
there  can  be  no  doubt  of  the  actual  occurrence  of  such  a 
calamity  in  some  well  authenticated  instances." 

The  above  medical  writer  has  made  an  exhaustive 
collection  of  remarkable  cases  of  trance  from  the  pages 
of  medical  literature.  For  instance,  he  quotes  a  case 
from  "Philosophical  Transactions"  as  far  back  as  1694, 
of  a  man  aged  25,  who  slept  for  nearly  a  month.  Two 
years  later  he  again  fell  into  lethargy,  and  at  first  ate, 
drank,  etc.,  though  unconsciously,  but  at  length  ceased 
doing  so  altogether,  and  continued  to  hibernate  for  seven- 
teen weeks.  In  August  he  fell  asleep  again,  and  did  not 
wake  until  November. 

Another  case,  recorded  in  the  8th  volume  of  "  The 
Transactions  of  the  Royal  Society  of  Edinburgh,"  is  of 
a  girl  who  slept  uninterruptedly  from  the  1st  of  July 
until  the  1st  of  August. 

And  a  still  further  case,  noticed  by  Dr.  Cooke  in  his 
"  Treatise  on  Nervous  Diseases,"  is  that  of  a  young 
lady  who  was  for  some  time  subject  to  repeated 

52  TRANCE. 

attacks  of  lethargy  varying  in  duration  from  thirty  to 
sixty-three  hours  without  seeming  to  have  suffered  from 
want  of  food  or  otherwise.  In  the  early  part  of  the 
disease  various  means  were  employed  without  the  smal- 
lest advantage,  save  that,  whilst  under  the  influence  of 
mercury,  which  produced  a  very  severe  salivation,  she 
was  free  from  the  complaint,  and  at  length  she  became 

Diembroeck  narrates  the  story  of  a  rustic  who  was 
supposed  to  have  died  of  the  plague,  and  was  laid  out 
for  interment  three  days  before  he  could  be  carried  to 
the  grave.  When  in  the  act  of  being  buried,  he  showed 
signs  of  life,  recovered,  and  lived  for  many  years. 

Dr.  Alexander  Wilder  writing  upon  this  subject  says: 
— "  I  have  a  letter  from  Dr.  Anna  E.  Park,  367  West 
Twenty-third  Street,  Xew  York  City,  in  which  she  states 
that  she  herself  had  been  three  times  in  danger  of  being 
buried  alive." 


The  remarkable  case  of  Marguerite  Bozenval,  "  The 
Dormouse  of  Menelles,"  caused  a  great  sensation  for 
many  years.  The  Paris  correspondent  of  the  Morning 
Leader,  in  a  communication  dated  February  I,  1903, 
drew  attention  to  the  case,  and  on  the  29th  of  May 
her  death  was  reported  in  the  same  journal.  She  had 
been  in  a  trance  for  20  years.  In  1883,  when  a  girl  of  21, 
she  had  a  child  ;  and  her  companion,  as  a  joke,  told  her 
one  day  soon  afterwards,  that  the  police  had  come  to 
arrest  her.  She  instantly  became  unconscious,  and,  until 
a  day  or  two  before  her  death,  she  was  never  aroused 
from  her  unconscious  condition.  Her  mouth  and  eyes 
were  always  closed,  but  she  was  fed  by  a  tube  which 


was  inserted  in  her  mouth,  after  the  doctors  had  broken 
a  tooth  for  the  purpose.  Dr.  Charlier  had  attended  her 
all  the  20  years,  and  the  first  sign  of  dawning  conscious- 
ness was  in  February,  when  her  medical  attendant  had 
to  open  an  abscess,  and  she  started  involuntarily.  The 
day  before  her  death,  after  a  violent  twitching  of  the 
limbs,  she  momentarily  opened  her  eyes,  flinched  when 
the  doctor  pinched  her,  and  subsequently  asked  after 
her  grandfather  who  had  been  dead  many  years.  She 
did  not  recognise  her  mother,  and  thought  her  cousin 
was  her  sister.  The  effort  to  speak  and  rouse  herself 
seemed  more  than  the  enfeebled  frame  could  bear,  and 
she  ceased  to  breathe  at  nine  o'clock  in  the  morning. 


Science  Sif tings,  June  20,  1903,  says: — Marie  Daskalaki, 
a  pretty  girl  of  seventeen,  is  the  object  of  a  popular 
subscription  of  money  to  take  her  to  Paris  from  Athens 
in  the  hope  of  getting  her  awakened  from  a  sleep  that 
has  lasted  for  months.  The  history  of  the  case  is  unique. 
The  girl  suffered  from  a  chest  affection,  and  being 
absolutely  destitute,  was  given  a  bed  in  the  hospital, 
where,  when  near  recovery,  she  was  so  frightened  by 
seeing  a  woman  dying  in  the  next  bed  that  she  lost 
consciousness  and  has  now  been  sleeping  for  five  months 
and  a  half.  She  has  since  been  removed  to  her  parents* 
house,  and  awakes  every  five  or  six  days,  but  falls  to 
sleep  again  almost  immediately.  She  scarcely  eats 
anything,  sleeps  with  her  eyes  open,  and  appears  not  to 
hear  anything.  She  is,  however,  very  sensible  in  her 
waking  moments,  but  at  the  slightest  sound  falls  back 

54  TRANCE. 


The  Chief  Constable  of  Hereford,  in  a  letter  to  Miss 
Lechmere,  8  December,  1902,  mentions  a  case  of  a 
girl  named  Sarah  Ann  Dobbins,  aged  1 1  years,  of  27 
Blue  School  Street,  Hereford,  who  died  on  the  I2th  of 
August,  1879,  after  being  in  a  state  of  trance  for  three 
weeks.  The  body  was  arranged  after  the  manner  of  all 
corpses,  and  the  door  of  the  room  locked  for  the  night. 
In  the  morning  the  child  wore  precisely  the  same  appear- 
ance of  death;  two  young  ladies,  a  Miss  Cook  and  a  Miss 
Bethel,  called  about  ten  o'clock  to  see  the  body,  and  it 
was  then  discovered  that  it  had  moved.  Dr.  Smith  was 
called  in,  and  the  girl  recovered.  Fourteen  years  later, 
when  she  was  25  years  old,  she  committed  suicide  by 
drowning  herself  in  the  river  Wye. 

The  following  case  appeared  in  the  Middlesborough 
Daily  Gazette,  February  9,  1896,  and  in  a  number  of 
English  papers  :— 

"  The  young  Dutch  maiden,  Maria  Cvetskens,  who  now  lies 
asleep  at  Stevensworth,  has  beaten  the  record  in  the  annals  of 
somnolence.  At  the  beginning  of  last  month  she  had  been  asleep 
for  nearly  three  hundred  days.  The  doctors,  who  visit  her  in  great 
numbers,  are  agreed  that  there  is  no  deception  in  the  case.  Her 
parents  are  of  excellent  repute,  and  it  has  never  occurred  to  them 
to  make  any  financial  profit  out  of  the  abnormal  state  of  their 
daughter.  As  to  the  cause  of  the  prolonged  sleep,  the  doctors 

Page  after  page  might  be  filled  with  similar  instances 
of  these  strange  death  counterfeits,  which  have  led  not 
only  to  the  horrible  condition  of  being  laid  out  for 
interment,  but  in  not  a  few  well  authenticated  instances, 
to  premature  burial.  Alas,  only  a  limited  number  of  the 


latter  instances  are  known,  but  those  which  have  come 
to  light  by  the  disturbances  of  old  graveyards,  and 
judicial  enquiries,  afford  sufficient  ground  for  the  sugges- 
tion that  many  ugly  secrets  are  locked  up  underground. 
We  can  but  select  a  few  cases  out  of  the  wealth  of 
material  at  our  disposal,  and  just  those  which  appear 
to  be  trustworthy. 


Cases  like  the  following  which  appeared  in  the  London 
Echo,  of  January  29,  1901,  are  sufficient  to  arouse  alarm 
in  any  sensitive  nature.  This  journal  reports  that  "some 
workmen,  opening  a  vault  at  Ghent  yesterday,  were 
horrified  to  discover  the  body  of  a  young  girl  lying 
across  the  steps  leading  down  into  the  vault.  She  was 
quite  dead,  and  had  evidently  been  buried  in  a  trance." 

A  correspondent  in  Spare  Moments  recalls  the  pre- 
mature burial  in  April,  1895,  of  Ovidio  Rossi,  Italian 
Consul  at  Constantinople,  whose  body  was  afterwards 
found  turned  over  face  downwards,  with  legs  twisted 
and  hands  contracted,  and  fists  full  of  hair  (see  Figaro 
and  Petit  Journal,  April  30,  1895);  also  the  fortunate 
prevention  of  it  at  the  last  moment,  in  the  recent  case  in 
Varna,  where  the  wife  of  the  wealthy  Russian  merchant 
Ulyanon,  had  been  medically  certified,  and  was  on  the 
point  of  being  disposed  of,  as  dead,  but  who  at  the  date 
of  the  last  report,  three  weeks  after  the  day  fixed  for 
the  burial,  had  not  shown  the  slightest  sign  of  decom- 

The  Hereford  Times  of  November  16,  1901,  reprints 
the  following  case  from  Pauillac.  A  Madame  Bobin 
arrived  there  on  board  the  steamer  "  La  Plata,"  from 

56  TRANCE. 

Senegal.  She  was  supposed  to  be  suffering  from  yellow 
fever,  and  was  transferred  to  the  Lazaret  by  order  of  the 
officer  of  health.  There  she  became  worse,  and  appar- 
ently died.  The  body  became  rigid,  and  the  face  ashen 
and  corpse-like,  and  in  that  condition  she  was  buried. 
The  nurse,  however,  had  noticed  that  the  body  was  not 
cold,  and  that  there  was  tremulousness  of  the  muscles  of 
the  abdomen,  and  expressed  the  opinion  that  Madame 
Bobin  was  prematurely  buried.  On  this  being  reported 
to  Madame  Bobin's  father,  he  had  the  body  exhumed, 
when  it  was  found  that  a  child  had  been  born  in  the 
coffin.  The  autopsy  showed  also  that  Madame  Bobin 
had  not  contracted  yellow  fever,  and  had  died  from 
asphyxiation  in  the  coffin.  A  suit  was  begun  against 
the  health  officers  and  the  prefect,  which  resulted  in  a 
verdict  for  £8,000  damages  against  them. 


CATALEPSY  differs  in  some  of  its  characteristics  from 
trance,  but  the  one  is  often  mistaken  for  the  other.  It 
is  not  so  much  a  disease  as  a  symptom  of  certain 
nervous  disorders,  to  which  women  and  children  are 
more  particularly  liable.  Catalepsy  can  be  produced 
artificially  by  hypnotism.  Like  trance,  it  has  often 
been  mistaken  for  death,  and  its  subjects  buried  alive. 
In  the  religious  epidemics  of  the  Anabaptists  in  1686, 
and  of  the  Calvinists  of  St.  Medard  in  1/31,  catalepsy 
appears  to  have  been  a  contagious  disorder  induced  by 
involuntary  imitation. 


I  had  a  striking  case  in  my  own  practice  in  1895.  I 
was  sent  for  in  the  early  hours  of  the  morning  to  see  a 
young  girl  of  seventeen,  who  had  spent  practically  the 
whole  of  the  previous  day  in  Wells  Cathedral  listening 
to  the  music  and  singing  in  some  special  services, 
driving  afterwards  some  fifteen  miles  across  country  to 
the  Somersetshire  village  where  she  lived.  On  arrival 
at  the  house  I  was  informed  by  the  weeping  relatives 
that  I  was  too  late  ;  she  was  dead.  The  poor  girl  had 
fallen  in  a  swoon,  whilst  sitting  in  a  chair,  soon  after 
arrival  home,  and  though  every  effort  had  been  made  to 
rouse  her  they  all  proved  ineffectual ;  even  then  I  heard 
her  distracted  friends  shouting  her  name  in  her  ears 
without  effect. 


I  found  the  patient  lying  with  closed  eyes,  pale  and 
corpse-like,  upon  the  bed  ;  breathing  was  practically 
imperceptible  ;  and  the  pulse,  scarcely  distinguishable, 
was  nevertheless  small  and  rapid.  I  had  lifted  the  wrist 
from  the  bed  in  order  to  examine  the  pulse,  and  was 
struck  by  the  fact  that  upon  releasing  it  the  forearm 
remained  suspended  and  continued  in  a  state  of 
suspension  for  some  considerable  time.  I  then  put  other 
limbs  in  various  positions,  placed  the  body  in  absurd 
postures,  when,  to  the  amazement  of  the  onlookers,  such 
positions  were  maintained,  and  apparently  would  have 
been  maintained  indefinitely  had  I  not  restored  the 
decubitus.  She  remained  in  this  condition  six  days  ;  her 
friends,  one  and  all,  failed  in  their  efforts  to  arouse  her, 
or  to  gain  any  response  to  their  calls.  Urine  and  faeces 
passed  involuntarily.  She  lived  four  miles  from  my 
residence,  and  therefore  I  could  only  see  her  morning 
and  evening  ;  and  a  strange  fact  was  that  although  her 
relatives  could  make  no  impression  upon  her  senses,  I 
could,  by  speaking  to  her  in  a  commanding  voice,  get 
her  to  swallow  milk  from  a  feeding  cup.  The  cataleptic 
condition  continued  throughout  ;  the  arms  and  legs 
would  remain  in  the  most  tiring  positions  in  which  I 
could  place  them  for  far  longer  periods  than  they  could 
possibly  have  been  sustained  in  health. 

At  the  close  of  the  sixth  day  profuse  menstruation 
supervened,  and  I  noticed  slight  signs  of  consciousness. 
I  told  her  to  sit  up,  and  she  did  so,  and  opened  her  eyes 
vacantly.  I  left  the  room  for  her  friends  to  dress  her, 
and  on  returning  later  I  conversed  with  her,  and  found 
her  quite  oblivious  of  all  that  had  taken  place,  but  she 
spoke  freely  of  the  music  and  singing,  that  is,  up  to  the 


point  where  consciousness  had  been  interrupted.  At  no 
time  subsequently  had  she  any  recollection  of  these  six 
days  which  formed  a  period  of  such  intense  anxiety  to 
her  friends.  I  had  not  at  that  time  become  interested 
in  the  subject  of  premature  burial,  but  many  in  the 
district,  who  had  been  excited  by  the  sensational  event, 
remarked  that  under  other  circumstances  the  result 
might  have  been  of  a  more  serious  character.  I  could 
not  but  agree  with  their  conclusions. 


Dr.  Franz  Hartmann  differentiates  between  trance 
and  catalepsy,  as  follows  : — "  There  seems  hardly  any 
limit  to  the  time  during  which  a  person  may  remain  in 
a  trance  ;  but  catalepsy  is  due  to  some  obstruction  in 
the  organic  mechanism  of  the  body,  on  account  of  its  ex- 
hausted nervous  power.  In  the  latter  case  the  activity  of 
life  begins  again  as  soon  as  the  impediment  is  removed, 
or  the  nervous  energy  has  recuperated  its  strength." 

Dr.  Gowers,  in  Quain's  "  Dictionary  of  Medicine,"  ed. 
1894,  vol.  i.,  pp.  284-5,  describes  catalepsy  as  affecting 
both  sexes,  at  all  ages  from  six  to  sixty.  It  is 
a  nervous  affection,  commonly  associated  with  distinct 
evidence  of  hysteria,  but  said  sometimes  to  occur  as  an 
early  symptom  of  epilepsy.  It  is  attended  commonly 
with  loss  of  consciousness.  The  limbs  remain  in  the 
position  they  occupied  at  the  onset,  as  if  petrified.  The 
whole  or  part  of  the  muscles  pass  into  a  state  of  rigidity. 
In  profound  conditions  sensibility  is  lost  to  touch,  pain, 
and  electricity  ;  and  no  reflex  movements  can  be  induced 
even  by  touching  the  conjunctiva,  a  state  of  mental 
trance  being  associated. 


"  Cassell's  Family  Physician  "  (by  Physicians  and  Sur- 
geons of  the  principal  London  Hospitals)  describes  this 
singular  affection,  as  follows  : — "  Catalepsy  is  one  of  the 
strangest  diseases  possible.  It  is  of  rare  occurrence,  and 
some  very  sceptical  people  have  even  gone  so  far  as  to 
deny  its  existence.  That  is  all  nonsense,  for  catalepsy 
is  just  as  much  a  reality  as  gout  or  bronchitis.  A  fit 
of  catalepsy — for  it  is  a  paroxysmal  disease — consists 
essentially  in  the  sudden  suspension  of  thought,  feeling, 
and  the  power  of  moving. 

"  Cataleptic  fits  vary  very  much,  not  only  in  their 
frequency,  but  in  their  duration.  Sometimes  they  are 
very  short  indeed,  lasting  only  a  few  minutes.  In  one 
case,  that  of  a  lady,  they  would  sometimes  come  on  when 
she  was  reading  aloud.  She  would  stop  suddenly  in  the 
middle  of  a  sentence,  and  a  peculiar  stiffness  of  the 
whole  body  would  seize  her,  fixing  the  limbs  immovably 
for  several  minutes.  Then  it  would  pass  off,  and  the 
reading  would  be  continued  at  the  very  word  at  which  it 
had  been  interrupted,  the  patient  being  quite  unconscious 
that  anything  had  happened.  But  sometimes  fits  such 
as  these  may  last  for  days  and  days  together,  and  it 
seems  not  improbable  that  people  may  have  been  buried 
in  this  state  in  mistake  for  death." 


In  a  communication  received  from  the  eminent 
specialist,  Dr.  Forbes  Winslow,  in  September,  1903, 
relative  to  this  important  subject,  he  says  : — 

"  All  the  appearances  of  death  may  be  so  strikingly 
displayed  in  a  person  in  a  cataleptic  condition  that  it  is 
quite  possible  for  burial  to  take  place  while  life  is  not 


extinct  Cases  of  persons  being  buried  alive  occur  in 
England  much  more  frequently,  I  dare  say,  than  is 
generally  supposed.  I  do  not  consider  that  the  ordinary 
tests  employed  to  ascertain  that  life  is  extinct  are 
sufficient ;  /  maintain  that  the  only  satisfactory  proof  of 
death  is  putrefaction. 

"  Trance-sleep  is  a  morbid  form  of  sleep,  and  has 
often  been  mistaken  for  death.  In  trance-sleep  there 
appears  to  be  the  same  suspension  of  all  animal  and 
organic  functions  which  takes  place  in  hybernation, 
but  the  hemispherical  ganglia  continue  in  active  oper- 
ation. When  the  torpid  state  partially  extends  to  the 
motor  system,  the  cataleptic  condition  is  induced  ; 
that  is  to  say,  the  muscles  contract  automatically  upon 
any  slight  impression  being  made  upon  them. 

"  All  cases  of  apparent  death  present  the  persistence 
of  pulsations  of  the  heart,  a  character  which  distinguishes 
them  from  real  death  ;  this  refers  especially  to  those 
due  to  asphyxia  and  syncope. 

"The  immediate  and  certain  signs  of  death  are 
prolonged  absence  of  cardiac  pulsation,  the  simultaneous 
relaxation  of  the  sphincters,  owing  to  the  paralysis  of 
the  muscles,  and  finally  the  sinking  of  the  globe  of 
the  eye  and  loss  of  transparency  in  the  cornea.  Only 
the  first  of  these  taken  by  itself  is  a  trustworthy  test, 
but  even  with  this  we  can  be  deceived  ;  the  certain 
signs  being  cadaveric  rigidity,  absence  of  muscular 
contraction  under  galvanic  stimulation,  and  the  last,  but 
certain  test,  as  I  have  previously  stated,  putrefaction. 

"  I  consider  the  law  should  be  made  more  stringent, 
as  to  certifying  deaths.  To  be  absolutely  satisfactory, 
no  certificate  should  be  signed  until  after  proper 


examination  of  the  body,  and,  indeed,  as  I  have  said, 
until  there  are  signs  of  putrefaction.  I  always  refuse, 
myself,  to  sign  a  certificate  before  careful  examination, 
although  I  have  often  been  asked  to  do  so. 

"  A  case  which  illustrates  the  danger  of  premature 
burials  occurred  in  my  own  personal  experience  not 
long  ago.  I  was  called  upon  to  attend  an  elderly  lady, 
and  on  arriving  at  the  house  was  told  she  was  dead. 
There  was  another  doctor  present,  and  he  also  informed 
me  that  she  was  dead,  and  to  all  appearances  that  was  so. 
There  was  no  pulse,  no  perceptible  heart's  action,  and 
all  the  appearances  of  death  were  there.  I  was  not 
satisfied,  however,  and  tried  bleeding.  The  result  was 
that  the  lady's  blood  began  to  circulate,  and  she 
recovered  consciousness.  She  had  been  in  a  state  of 
catalepsy  ;  but  had  that  case  occurred  in  a  hospital,  in 
all  probability  a  screen  would  have  been  drawn  round 
the  body,  and  the  matter  considered  as  settled.  It  is 
mainh-  the  liability  of  these  conditions  -  occurring, 
accompanied  by  all  the  appearances  of  death,  which 
makes  the  subject  of  premature  burial  so  important." 


The  following  case,  contributed  by  Dr.  Gooch,  will 
further  illustrate  this  malady  :— 

"A  lady,  who  laboured  habitually  under  melancholy,  a  few  days 
after  parturition  was  seized  with  catalepsy,  and  presented  the 
following  appearances  : — She  was  lying  in  bed  motionless  and 
apparently  senseless.  It  was  thought  the  pupils  of  her  eyes  were 
dilated,  and  some  apprehensions  were  entertained  of  effusion  on 
the  brain  ;  but  on  examining  them  closely  it  was  found  they 
readily  contracted  when  the  light  fell  upon  them.  The  only  signs 


of  life  were  warmth,  and  a  pulse  which  was  one  hundred  and 
twenty,  and  weak.  In  attempting  to  rouse  her  from  this  senseless 
state,  the  trunk  of  the  body  was  lifted  up  and  placed  so  far  back  as 
to  form  an  obtuse  angle  with  the  lower  extremities,  and  in  this 
posture,  with  nothing  to  support  her,  she  continued  sitting  for 
many  minutes.  One  arm  was  now  raised,  and  then  the  other,  and 
in  the  posture  they  were  placed  they  remained.  It  was  a  curious 
sight  to  see  her  sitting  up  staring  lifelessly,  her  arms  outstretched, 
yet  without  any  visible  signs  of  animation.  She  was  very  thin 
and  pallid,  and  .looked  like  a  corpse  that  had  been  propped  up  and 
stiffened  in  that  attitude.  She  was  now  taken  out  of  bed  and 
placed  upright,  and  attempts  were  made  to  rouse  her  by  calling 
loudly  in  her  ears,  but  in  vain  ;  she  stood  up,  indeed,  but  as 
inanimate  as  a  statue.  The  slightest  push  put  her  off  her  balance, 
and  she  made  no  exertion  to  retain  it,  and  would  have  fallen  had 
she  not  been  caught.  She  went  into  this  state  three  times  ;  the 
first  lasted  fourteen  hours,  the  second  twelve  hours,  and  the  third 
nine  hours,  with  waking  intervals  of  three  days  after  the  first  fit, 
and  of  one  day  after  the  second  ;  after  this  time  the  disease 
assumed  the  ordinary  form  of  melancholia. —  The  Science  and 
Practice  of  Medicine,  by  Sir  W.  Aitken,p.  357. 

Dr.  John  Jebb,  F.R.S.,  cited  in  Reynold's  "  System  of 
Medicine,"  vol.  ii.,  pp.  99-102,  has  recorded  the  following 
graphic  case  :— 

"  In  the  latter  end  of  last  year  (viz.,  1781),  I  was  desired  to  visit 
a  young  lady  who,  for  nine  months,  had  been  afflicted  with  that 
singular  disorder  termed  a  catalepsy.  Although  she  was  prepared 
for  my  visit,  she  was  seized  with  the  disorder  as  soon  as  my  arrival 
was  announced.  She  was  employed  in  netting,  and  was  passing 
the  needle  through  the  mesh,  in  which  position  she  immediately 
became  rigid,  exhibiting,  in  a  very  pleasing  form,  a  figure  of  death- 
like sleep,  beyond  the  power  of  art  to  imitate  or  the  imagination 
to  conceive.  Her  forehead  was  serene,  her  features  perfectly 
composed.  The  paleness  of  her  colour,  her  breathing  at  a  distance 
being  also  scarcely  perceptible,  operated  in  rendering  the  similitude 
to  marble  more  exact  and  striking.  The  positions  of  her  fingers, 


hands,  and  arms  were  altered  with  difficulty,  but  they  preserved 
every  form  of  flexure  they  acquired  ;  nor  were  the  muscles  of  the 
neck  exempted  from  this  law,  her  head  maintaining  every  situation 
in  which  the  hand  could  place  it  as  firmly  as  her  limbs,"  etc. 

Dr.  King  Chambers,  after  citing  the  above  case  in 
full,  continues  : — 

"The  most  common  exciting  cause  of  catalepsy  seems  to  be 
strong  mental  emotion.  When  Covent  Garden  Theatre  was  last 
burnt  down,  the  blaze  flashed  in  at  the  uncurtained  windows  of 
St.  Mary's  Hospital.  One  of  my  patients,  a  girl  of  twenty 
recovering  from  low  fever,  was  woke  up  by  it  and  exclaimed  that 
the  day  of  judgment  was  come.  She  remained  in  an  excited 
state  all  night,  and  the  next  morning  grew  gradually  stiff,  like  a 
corpse,  whispering  (before  she  became  quite  insensible)  that  she 
was  dead.  If  her  arm  was  raised,  it  remained  extended  in  the 
position  in  which  it  was  placed  for  several  minutes,  and  then 
slowly  subsided.  The  inelastic  kind  of  way  in  which  it  retained 
its  position  for  a  time,  and  then  gradually  yielded  to  the  force  of 
gravity,  reminded  one  more  of  a  wax  figure  than  of  the  marble 
to  which  Dr.  Jebb  compares  it.  A  strange  effect  was  produced 
by  opening  the  eye-lid  of  one  eye  ;  the  other  eye  remained  closed, 
and  the  raised  lid  after  a  time  fell  very  slowly  like  the  arm.  A 
better  superficial  representation  of  death  it  is  difficult  to  conceive. 

.  .  In  both  these  cases  I  convinced  myself  carefully  that  there 
was  no  deception. 

"  Other  cases  are  of  much  longer  duration.  .  .  .  The  death- 
like state  may  last  for  days.  It  may  be  mistaken  for  real  death, 
and  treated  as  such. 

<k  Any  cases  of  apparent  death  that  did  occur  (in  former  days) 
were  burnt,  or  buried,  or  otherwise  put  out  of  the  way,  and 
were  never  more  heard  of.  But  after  the  establishment  of 
Christianity,  tenderness,  sometimes  excessive,  for  the  remains  of 
departed  friends  took  the  place  of  the  hard,  heathen  selfishness. 
The  dead  were  kept  closer  to  the  congregations  of  the  living 
as  if  to  represent  in  material  form  the  dogma  of  the  Communion 
of  Saints.  This  led  to  the  discovery  that  some  persons,  indeed 


some  persons  of  note  (amongst  others,  Duns  Scotus  the  theologian, 
at  Cologne),  had  got  out  of  their  coffins  and  died  in  a  vain 
attempt  to  open  the  doors  of  their  vaults." 


Dr.  Chambers  relates  several  other  remarkable  cases. 
Here  is  one  : — 

"  I  alighted  accidently  on  another  case,  communicated  to  the 
same  scientific  body  (Acad.  Royale  des  Sciences),  by  M.  Imbert 
in  1713.  It  is  that  of  the  driver  of  the  Rouen  diligence,  aged 
forty-five,  who  fell  into  a  kind  of  soporific  catalepsy  on  hearing 
of  the  sudden  death  of  a  man  he  had  quarrelled  with.  It  appears 
that  '  M  Burette,  under  whose  care  he  was  at  La  Charite,  made 
use  of  the  most  powerful  assistance  of  art — bleeding  in  the  arms, 
the  foot,  the  neck,  emetics,  purgatives,  blisters,  leeches,'  etc.  At 
last  somebody  'threw  him  naked  into  cold  water  to  surprise  him.' 
The  effect  surprised  the  doctors  as  much  as  the  patient.  It  is 
related  with  evident  wonder  how  'he  opened  his  eyes,  looked 
steadfastly,  but  did  not  speak.'  His  wife  seems  to  have  been  a 
prudent  woman,  for  a  week  afterwards  she  '  carried  him  home, 
where  he  is  at  present ;  they  gave  him  no  medicine  ;  he  speaks 
sensibly  enough,  and  mends  every  day.' " 

The  Lancet,  1870,  vol.  i.,  p.  1044,  in  its  Paris  corre- 
spondence says  : — 

"The  following  curious  case  is  related  as  having  occurred  at 
Dunkirk,  on  April  14,  and  as  'showing  the  utility  of  catalepsy.' 
A  young  girl  of  seventeen  years  was  seized  with  a  violent  attack  of 
epilepsy,  and  fell,  on  the  above  date,  into  a  canal.  A  boatman 
immediately  jumped  into  the  water  to  save  her,  and  brought  her  to 
the  shore  after  twenty  minutes.  The  most  singular  circumstance 
connected  with  the  accident  is  that,  when  the  young  girl  was  taken 
out  of  the  water,  she  presented  all  the  symptoms  of  catalepsy. 
Notwithstanding  this  long  immersion,  she  was  resuscitated,  and 
nothing  afterwards  transpired  to  cause  any  anxiety." 


Mr.  James  Braid,  M.R.C.S.,  in  the  Medical  Times, 
1850,  vol.  xxi.,  p.  402,  narrates  a  case  of  a  cataleptic 
woman  in  the  Manchester  Royal  Infirmary  under  the 
care  of  Dr.  John  Mitchell,  and  writes  :  — 

"  Every  variety  of  contrivance  and  torture  was  resorted  to  by 
various  parties  who  saw  her,  for  the  purpose  of  testing  the  degree 
of  her  insensibility,  and  for  determining  whether  she  might  not 
be  an  impostor,  but  without  eliciting  the  slightest  indication  of 
activity  of  any  of  the  senses  ;  .  .  .  Nevertheless  she  heard  and 
understood  all  that  was  said  and  proposed  to  be  done,  and  suffered 
the  most  exquisite  torture  from  various  tests  applied  to  her  /  / 
A  fact  so  important  as  this  ought  to  be  published  in  every  journal 
throughout  the  civilised  world,  so  that  in  future  professional  men 
might  be  thereby  led  to  exercise  greater  discretion  and  mercy  in 
their  modes  of  applying  tests  to  such  patients." 


The  Somerset  County  Herald  (Taunton)  of  October  12, 
1895,  has  the  following  :— 

"The  wedding  nuptials  of  a  sailor  from  H.M.S.  Alexandra  and 
a  young  woman  residing  in  Broadway,  who  were  recently  married, 
have  been  interrupted  in  a  most  unusual  manner  by  the  newly- 
made  bride  falling  into  a  trance.  On  the  day  following  the 
wedding  Mr.  and  Mrs.  Mortimer,  for  such  is  the  name  of  the 
newly-espoused  pair,  went  for  a  drive,  and  on  returning  in  the 
evening  the  bride,  remarking  that  she  did  not  feel  very  well,  went 
upstairs,  and  before  long  was  in  a  sound  sleep,  which  continued 
throughout  the  night  and  far  into  the  following  day.  The  relatives 
of  the  bride,  remembering  symptoms  which  she  had  previously 
developed,  then  sent  for  Dr.  Pridham,  who  at  once  pronounced 
that  the  unfortunate  young  woman  had  fallen  into  a  trance.  Dr. 
Colmer,  of  Weymouth,  was  likewise  called  ;  but  nothing  that  these 
two  medical  gentlemen  could  do  had  the  slightest  effect  in  arous- 
ing their  patient  from  the  state  of  lethargy  into  which  she  had  so 


suddenly  and  unexpectedly  relapsed.  In  this  condition  she  re- 
mained for  a  space  of  five  days,  when  she  gradually  showed  signs 
of  returning  animation,  and  in  the  course  of  a  few  hours  regained 
consciousness,  though  she  was  then  in  a  very  exhausted  condition. 
After  her  wakening  the  young  woman  developed  inflammation  of 
the  legs,  which  was  regarded  as  a  very  serious  condition  for  her  to 
he  in.  In  an  interview  on  Saturday,  Dr.  Pridham  described  the 
trance  as  being  exceedingly  death-like  in  character,  and  added 
that,  in  such  trances  as  the  one  in  question,  in  the  past  people 
have  no  doubt  been  actually  buried." 

A  less  experienced  practitioner  would  probably  have 
made  out  a  death-certificate,  as  in  numerous  similar 
cases.  After  burial  we  hear  no  more  of  them  ;  they 
may  have  been  buried  in  a  death -like  trance,  but  the 
medical  certificate,  no  matter  how  inconsiderately  given, 
consigns  them  to  perpetual  silence  beyond  appeal  or 
escape.  Family  remonstrance  is  then  unavailing,  for, 
except  in  cases  of  strong  suspicion  of  poisoning,  no 
Home  Secretary  or  Coroner  would  grant  an  order  for 

The  existence  of  trance,  catalepsy,  and  other  death 
counterfeits  followed  by  hasty  burial,  has  been  alluded 
to  by  reputable  writers  from  time  immemorial  ;  and 
while  the  veracity  of  these  writers  has  remained  un- 
challenged, and  their  narratives  are  confirmed  by  hun- 
dreds of  cases  of  modern  experience,  the  effect  on  the 
public  mind  has  been  only  of  a  transitory  character, 
and  nothing  has  been  done  either  in  England  or 
America  to  safeguard  the  people  from  such  dreadful 




THE  following  case  of  the  jerboa,  or  jumping  mouse, 
recorded  by  Major-General  Thomas  Davies,  F.R.S., 
in  the  "  Transactions  of  the  Linnsean  Society," L  will 
show  how  far  a  torpid  mammal  may  be  removed 
from  the  opportunity  of  breathing,  and  how  imper- 
ceptibly, to  the  eyes  of  an  observer,  its  torpid  life  passed 
into  actual  death  :— 

"  With  respect  to  the  figure  given  of  it  in  its  dormant 
state  (plate  viii.,  fig.  6),  I  have  to  observe  that  the 
specimen  was  found  by  some  workmen  in  digging  the 
foundation  for  a  summer-house  in  a  gentleman's  garden, 
about  two  miles  from  Quebec,  in  the  latter  end  of  May, 
1787.  It  was  discovered  enclosed  in  a  ball  of  clay, 
about  the  size  of  a  cricket  ball,  nearly  an  inch  in  thick- 
ness, perfectly  smooth  within,  and  about  twenty  inches 
under  ground.  The  man  who  first  discovered  it,  not 
knowing  what  it  was,  struck  the  ball  with  his  spade,  by 
which  means  it  was  broken  to  pieces,  or  the  ball  also 
would  have  been  presented  to  me.  The  drawing  will 
perfectly  show  how  the  animal  is  laid  during  its  dor- 
mant state  [a  tawny  mouse,  with  long  hind  legs  and 
j'ong  tail,  coiled  up  into  a  perfect  ovoid,  of  which  the  two 
'poles  are  the  crown  of  the  head  and  the  rump.]  How 

1  "  Linnrean  Transactions,"   1797,    vol.    iv.,    p.    155.      "An  Account  of 
the  Jumping  Mouse  of  Canada — Dipits  Catiadensis" 


long  it  had  been  underground  it  is  impossible  to  say; 
but  as  I  never  could  observe  these  animals  in  any  parts 
of  the  country  after  the  beginning  of  September,  I  con- 
ceive that  they  lay  themselves  up  some  time  in  that 
month,  or  in  the  beginning  of  October,  when  the  frost 
becomes  sharp ;  nor  did  I  ever  see  them  again  before  the 
last  week  of  May,  or  beginning  of  June.  From  their 
being  enveloped  in  balls  of  clay,  without  any  appearance 
of  food,  I  conceive  they  sleep  during  the  winter,  and  re- 
main for  that  time  without  sustenance.  As  soon  as  I 
conveyed  this  specimen  to  my  house,  I  deposited  it,  as 
it  was,  in  a  small  chip  box,  in  some  cotton,  waiting  with 
great  anxiety  for  its  waking  ;  but  that  not  taking  place 
at  the  season  they  generally  appear,  I  kept  it  until  I 
found  it  began  to  smell ;  I  then  stuffed  it,  and  preserved 
it  in  its  torpid  position.  I  am  led  to  believe  its  not 
recovering  from  that  state  arose  from  the  heat  of  my 
room  during  the  time  it  was  in  the  box,  a  fire  having 
been  constantly  burning  in  the  stove,  and  which  in  all 
probability  was  too  great  for  respiration.  .  .  ." 


In  his  work  "  On  Trance  and  Human  Hibernation,1' 
p.  47,  Braid,  after  citing  facts  as  to  higher  animals, 
says  : — "  There  are  other  creatures  which  have  not  the 
power  of  migrating  from  climes  too  intensely  hot  for  the 
normal  exercise  of  their  physical  functions,  and  the  lives 
of  these  animals  are  preserved  through  a  state  of  torpor 
superinduced  by  the  want  of  sufficient  moisture,  their 
bodies  being  dried  up  from  excessive  heat.  This  is  the 
case  with  snails,  which  are  said  to  have  been  revived  by 
a  little  cold  water  being  thrown  on  them,  after  having 


remained  in  a  dry  and  torpid  state  for  fifteen  years. 
The  vibrio  tritici  has  also  been  restored,  after  perfect 
torpidity  and  apparent  death  for  five  years  and  eight 
months,  by  merely  soaking  it  in  water.  Some  small 
microscopic  animals  have  been  apparently  killed  and 
revived  again  a  dozen  times  by  drying  and  then  apply- 
ing moisture  to  them.  This  is  remarkably  verified  in 
the  case  of  the  wheel-animalcule.  And  Spallanzani 
states  that  some  animalcules  have  been  recovered  by 
moisture  after  a  torpor  of  twenty-seven  years.  Accord- 
ing to  Humboldt,  again,  some  large  animals  are  thrown 
into  a  similar  state  from  want  of  moisture.  Such  he 
states  to  be  the  case  with  the  alligator  and  boa-con- 
strictor during  the  dry  season  in  the  plains  of  Venezuela, 
and  with  other  animals  elsewhere." — "  On  Trance  and 
Human  Hibernation,"  p.  47. 

Dr.  Moore  Russell  Fletcher,  in  his  treatise  on  {i  Sus- 
pended Animation,"  pp.  7,  8,  observes  : — "  Snakes  and 
toads  live  for  a  long  time  without  air  or  food.  The 
following  experiment  was  made  by  a  Mr.  Tower,  of 
Gardiner  (Maine).  An  adder,  upwards  of  two  feet  in 
length,  was  got  into  a  glass  jar,  which  was  tightly 
sealed.  He  was  kept  there  for  sixteen  months  without 
any  apparent  change,  and  when  let  out,  looked  as  well 
as  when  put  in,  and  crawled  away. 

"  The  common  pond  trout,  when  thrown  into  snow, 
will  soon  freeze,  remain  so  for  days,  and  when  put  into 
cold  water  to  remove  the  frost  becomes  as  lively  as  ever. 

"When  residing  in  New  Brunswick,  in  1842,  we  went 
to  a  lake  to  secure  some  trout,  which  were  frozen  in  the 
snow  and  kept  for  use.  While  there  we  saw  men  with 
long  wooden  tongs  catching  frost  fish  from  the  salt 


water  at  the  entrance  of  a  brook.  The  fish  were  thrown 
upon  the  ice  in  great  quantities.  We  had  a  barrel  of 
them  put  up  with  snow  and  kept  frozen,  and  in  a  cool 
place.  For  six  or  seven  weeks  they  were  taken  out  and 
used  as  wanted,  and  might  be  kept  frozen  for  an  in- 
definite time,  and  be  alive  when  thawed  in  cold  water. 
The  two  pieces  of  a  fish,  cut  in  two  when  frozen,  would 
move  and  try  to  swim  when  thawed  in  cold  water." 


The  bear  resembles  man  in  being  omnivorous  and 
surprisingly  intelligent.  He  often  walks  on  his  hind 
paws,  and  uses  his  fore  paws  as  he  would  arms,  with 
surprising  dexterity.  His  winter  quarters,  in  which  he 
hibernates,  are  very  remarkable. 

When  the  cold  weather  arrives  he  digs  a  hole  in  the 
ground,  and  tries  to  pile  up  as  many  leaves  as  he  can 
around  and  upon  his  body.  The  snow  begins  to  fall, 
until  a  layer  which  often,  in  Russia,  reaches  to  more  than 
six  feet  high  is  formed.  It  is  a  real  burial.  There  are  no 
exterior  signs  of  the  animal,  so  that  when  the  inhabitants 
are  preparing  the  winter  hunts  they  have  to  mark  the 
trees  of  the  forest  so  as  to  know  where  he  is  lying. 

The  changes  of  temperature,  thaws,  and  frosts,  with 
new  snow  continually  added,  ultimately  form  a  coat  of 
ice  less  permeable  than  many  sandy  soils,  beneath  which 
the  animal  lives  in  a  lethargic  state  for  three  or  four 

WHEN  is  A  MAN  DEAD? 

Dr.  Brouardel  has  spent  years  in  a  special  study  of 
this  subject,  and  has  embodied  his  findings  in  a  remark- 
able book  called  "  Death  and  Sudden  Death,"  published 


by  William  Wood  &  Co.,  of  New  York.  He  says  that 
practically  all  the  signs  of  life  may  have  disappeared, 
and  the  patient  may  still  be  resuscitated. 

In  studying  this  subject,  Dr.  Brouardel  went  first  by 
the  lower  animals,  and  there  he  found  many  strange 
cases  of  apparent  death  which  was  not  death.  From 
this  basis  he  extended  his  investigations.  Here  are 
some  of  Dr.  Brouardel's  findings  : — 

"  In  hibernating  animals  the  functions  of  respiration 
and  circulation  are  reduced  to  the  minimum  during 
their  winter  sleep.  Submit  them  while  in  this  state  to  a 
reduction  of  temperature  of  9°  to  18°  Fahr.,  and  the  vital 
phenomena,  already  nearly  imperceptible,  are  absolutely 
arrested  ;  so  that  if  you  were  to  cut  one  of  the  animal's 
paws,  you  would  have  a  little  oozing  of  blood,  but  not  a 
stream.  Tap  the  heart  with  the  end  of  your  scalpel,  and 
you  will  not  induce  a  contraction,  and  it  will  be  equally 
impossible  to  arouse  muscular  contractibility. 

"  Take  these  animals  now  ;  warm  them  gradually  for 
an  hour  up  to  a  temperature  of  18°  Fahr.,  and  they  will 
resume  their  vital  functions.  They  were,  therefore,  in  a 
state  of  apparent  death.  Is  there  not  room  for  reflection 
when  we  see  how  closely  these  phenomena  apply  to  the 
case  of  human  beings  ?  " 


Dr.  George  Moore  observes  that  "  A  state  of  the  body 
is  certainly  sometimes  produced  (in  man)  which  is  nearly 
analogous  to  the  torpor  of  the  lower  animals — a  condition 
utterly  inexplicable  by  any  principle  taught  in  the  schools. 
Who,  for  instance,  can  inform  us  how  it  happens  that 
certain  fishes  may  be  suddenly  frozen  in  the  Polar  Sea, 


and  so  remain  during  the  long  winter,  and   yet  be  re- 
quickened   into   full  activity   by    returning   summer."- 
"Use  of  the  Body  in  Relation  to  the  Mind,"  p.  31. 

Hufeland,  in  his  "  Uncertainty  of  Death,"  1824,  p.  12, 
observes  that  it  is  easier  for  man  to  fall  into  a 
state  of  trance  than  the  lower  creatures,  on  account  of 
his  complicated  anatomy.  It  is  a  transitory  state 
between  life  and  death,  into  which  anyone  may  pass  and 
return  from.  Trance  was  common  among  the  Greeks 
and  Romans,  who,  just  before  cremation,  had  the  custom 
of  cutting  off  a  finger-joint,  most  probably  to  discover 
if  there  was  any  trace  of  life.  Death  does  not  come 
suddenly  ;  it  is  a  gradual  process  from  actual  life  into 
apparent  death,  and  from  that  to  actual  death.  It  is  a 
mistake  to  take  outward  appearances  for  inner  death. 

A  remarkable  case,  resting  upon  good  authority, 
illustrative  of  the  maintenance  of  life  under  a  partial 
suspension  of  the  action  of  the  heart  and  lungs,  is 
recorded  by  Cheyne.  It  is  that  of  Colonel  Townshend, 
who  appears  to  have  possessed  the  .power  of  voluntarily 
dying — i.e.,  of  so  suspending  the  heart's  action  that  no 
pulsation  could  be  felt.  The  longest  period  in  which  he 
remained  in  this  inanimate  state  was  about  half-an- 
hour,  when  active  life  became  slowly  re-established  with- 
out any  volition  or  consciousness  on  his  part.  No  doubt 
respiration  and  circulation  were  feebly  continued  at 
intervals  in  this  exceptional  case,  although  so  slightly 
as  to  be  imperceptible  to  the  examiners,  or  to  be  indi- 
cated by  pulsation  of  the  radial  artery,  or  by  the  hand 
placed  over  the  region  of  the  heart.  The  stethoscope  had 
not  then  been  invented,  and  the  method  of  detecting  heart 
sounds  by  auscultation  was  unknown  ;  there  are  cases, 


however,  on  record,  where  even  the  stethoscope  in 
suspended  animation  has  failed  to  elicit  evidence  of 
movement.  In  a  hibernating  animal,  though  apparently 
dead,  circulation  and  respiration  are,  of  course,  still 
maintained,  but  are  reduced  to  a  minimum.  For 
instance,  Boncleut  found,  in  his  experiments  on  the 
marmot  or  mountain  rat,  that  the  pulsations  of  the  heart, 
which  were  90  when  the  animal  was  in  an  active  state, 
were  reduced  to  8  or  10  in  a  minute  when  it  was  in  the 
torpid  state.  When  Colonel  Townshend  died  (he  really 
died  nine  hours  after  one  of  these  experiments),  nothing 
could  be  detected  post-mortem  to  account  for  the  extra- 
ordinary power  which  he  possessed  over  the  action  of 

the  heart. 


Mr.  Chunder  Sen,  municipal  secretary  to  the  Maha- 
rajah of  Jeypore,  introduced  the  author,  during  his  visit 
to  India,  March  8,  1896,  to  a  venerable  and  learned 
fakir,  who  was  seated  on  a  couch  Buddhist  fashion,  the 
feet  turned  towards  the  stomach,  in  the  attitude  of 
meditation,  in  a  small  but  comfortable  house  near  the 
entrance  to  the  beautiful  public  gardens  of  that  city. 
The  fakir  possesses  the  power  of  self-induced  trance, 
which  really  amounts  to  a  suspension  of -life,  being 
undistinguishable  from  death.  In  the  month  of  Decem- 
ber, 1895,  he  passed  into  and  remained  in  this  condition 
for  twenty  days.  On  several  occasions  the  experiment 
has  been  conducted  under  test  conditions.  In  1889, 
Dr.  Hem  Chunder  Sen,  of  Delhi,  and  his  brother,  Mr. 
Chunder  Sen,  had  the  opportunity  of  examining  the 
fakir  while  passing  into  a  state  of  hibernation,  and  found 
that  the  pulse  beat  slower  and  slower  until  it  ceased  to 


beat  at  all.  The  stethoscope  was  applied  to  the  heart 
by  the  doctor,  who  failed  to  detect  the  slightest  motion. 
The  fakir,  covered  with  a  white  shroud,  was  placed  in  a 
small  subterraneous  cell  built  of  masonry,  measuring 
about  six  feet  by  six  feet,  of  rotund  structure.  The  door 
was  closed  and  locked,  and  the  lock  sealed  with  Dr. 
Sen's  private  seal  and  with  that  of  Mr.  Dhanna  Tal,  the 
magistrate  of  the  city ;  the  flap  door  leading  to  the  vault 
was  also  carefully  fastened.  At  the  expiration  of  thirty- 
three  days  the  cell  was  opened,  and  the  fakir  was  found 
just  where  he  was  placed,  but  with  a  death-like  appear- 
ance, the  limbs  having  become  stiff  as  in  rigor  mortis. 
He  was  brought  from  the  vault,  and  the  mouth  was 
rubbed  with  honey  and  milk,  and  the  body  and  joints 
massaged  with  oil.  In  the  evening  manifestations  of 
life  were  exhibited,  and  the  fakir  was  fed  with  a  spoonful 
of  milk.  The  next  day  he  was  given  a  little  juice  of 
pulses  known  as  dal,  and  in  three  days  he  was  able  to 
eat  bread  and  milk,  his  normal  diet.  These  cases  are 
well  known  both  at  Delhi  and  at  Jeypore,  and  the  facts 
have  never  been  disputed.  The  fakir  is  a  Sanscrit 
scholar,  and  is  said  to  be  endowed  with  much  wisdom, 
and  is  consulted  by  those  who  are  interested  in  Hindu 
learning  and  religion.  He  has  never  received  money 
from  visitors,  and  the  mention  of  it  distresses  him. 


The  Medical  Times  of  May  n,  1850,  contains  a  com- 
munication from  Mr.  Braid,  who  says  he  has  "  lost  no 
opportunity  of  accumulating  evidence  on  this  subject, 
and  that  while  many  alleged  feats  of  this  kind  are 
probably  of  a  deceptive  character,  still  there  are  others 


which  admit  of  no  such  explanation  ;  and  that  it  be- 
comes the  duty  of  scientific  men  fairly  to  admit  the 
difficulty."  He  then  refers  to  two  documents  by  eye- 
witnesses of  these  feats,  and  which,  he  says,  "  with  the 
previous  evidence  on  the  subject,  must  set  the  point  at 
rest  for  ever  as  to  the  fact  of  the  feats  referred  to  being- 
genuine  phenomena,  deception  being  impossible."  In 
one  of  these  instances,  the  fakir  was  buried  in  the 
ground  for  six  weeks,  and  was,  consequently,  deprived 
not  only  of  food  and  drink,  but  also  of  light  and  air  ; 
when  he  was  disinterred,  his  legs  and  arms  were  shriv- 
elled and  stiff,  but  his  face  was  full  ;  no  pulse  could 
be  discovered  in  the  heart,  temples,  or  arms.  "  About 
three  years  since  I  spent  some  time  with  a  General 

C ,  a    highly  respectable  and    intelligent  man,  who 

had  been  a  long  time  in  the  Indian  service,  and  who 
was  himself  an  eye-witness  of  one  of  these  feats.  A 
fakir  was  buried  several  feet  in  the  earth,  under  vigilant 
inspection,  and  a  watch  was  set,  so  that  no  one  could 
communicate  with  him  ;  and  to  make  the  matter  doubly 
sure,  corn  was  sown  upon  the  grave,  and  during  the 
time  the  man  was  buried  it  vegetated  and  grew  to  the 
height  of  several  inches.  He  lay  there  forty-two  days. 
The  gentleman  referred  to  passed  the  place  many  times 
during  his  burial,  saw  the  growing  corn,  was  also  present 
at  his  disinterment,  and  when  he  questioned  the  man, 
and  intimated  to  him  that  he  thought  deception  had 
been  practised,  the  fakir  offered,  for  a  sum  of  money,  to 
be  buried  again,  for  the  same  length  of  time,  by  the 
General  himself,  and  in  his  own  garden.  This  challenge, 
of  course,  closed  the  argument." 

Cases  of  this  kind  might  be  multiplied  on  evidence 


which  cannot  be  doubted,  and,  in  Mr.  Braid's  book, 
entitled  "  Human  Hibernation,"  there  are  cases  fully 
stated.  Sir  Claude  Wade,  who  was  an  eye-witness  of 
these  feats  when  acting  as  political  agent  at  the  Court 
of  Runjeet  Singh,  at  Lahore,  and  from  whom  Mr.  Braid 
derived  his  information,  makes  the  following  observa- 
tions : — "  I  share  entirely  in  the  apparent  incredibility 
of  the  fact  of  a  man  being  buried  alive  and  surviving 
the  trial  for  various  periods  of  duration  ;  but  however 
incompatible  with  our  knowledge  of  physiology  in  the 
absence  of  any  visible  proof  to  the  contrary,  I  am  bound 
to  declare  my  belief  in  the  facts  which  I  have  repre- 
sented, however  impossible  their  existence  may  appear 
to  others."  Upon  this  Mr.  Braid  observes  : — "  Such  then 
is  the  narrative  of  Sir  C.  M.  Wade,  and  when  we  con- 
sider the  high  character  of  the  author  as  a  gentleman  of 
honour,  talents,  and  attainments  of  the  highest  order, 
and  the  searching,  painstaking  efforts  displayed  by  him 
throughout  the  whole  investigation,  and  his  close  prox- 
imity to  the  body  of  the  fakir,  and  opportunity  of 
observing  minutely  every  point  for  himself,  as  well  as 
the  facilities,  by  his  personal  intercourse  with  Runjeet 
Singh  and  the  whole  of  his  Court,  of  gaining  the  most 
accurate  information  on  every  point,  I  conceive  it  is 
impossible  to  have  had  a  more  valuable  or  conclusive 
document  for  determining  the  fact  that  no  collusion  or 
deception  existed." 


A  case  of  this  kind  was  exhibited  at  the  Westminster 
Aquarium  in  the  autumn  of  1895,  which  was  carefully 
watched  and  tested  by  medical  experts,  without 


detecting  any  appearance  of  fraud  or  simulation.  The 
hypnotised  man,  Walter  Johnson,  an  ex-soldier,  twenty- 
nine  years  of  age,  was  in  a  trance  which  lasted  thirty 
days,  during  which  time  he  was  absolutely  unconscious, 
as  shown  by  the  various  experiments  to  which  he  was 

A  case  of  induced  trance  and  experimental  burial,  not 
unlike  that  of  the  Indian  fakirs  referred  to,  was  reported 
in  the  London  Daily  Chronicle,  March  14,  1896.  The 
experiment  was  carried  out  under  test  conditions. 

"  After  being  entombed  for  six  days  in  a  hypnotic  trance,  Alfred 
Wootton  was  dug  up  and  awakened  at  the  Royal  Aquarium 
(Westminster),  on  Saturday  night  in  the  presence  of  a  crowd  of 
interested  spectators.  Wootton  was  hypnotised  on  Monday  by 
Professor  Fricker,  and  consigned  to  his  voluntary  grave,  nine  feet 
deep,  in  view  of  the  audience,  who  sealed  the  stout  casket  or  coffin 
in  which  the  subject  was  immured.  Seven  or  eight  feet  of  earth 
were  then  shovelled  upon  the  body,  a  shaft  being  left  open  for  the 
necessary  respiration,  and  in  order  that  the  public  might  be 
able  to  see  the  man's  face  during  the  week.  The  experiment 
was  a  novel  one  in  this  country,  and  was  intended  to  illustrate 
the  extraordinary  effect  produced  by  the  Indian  fakirs,  and  to 
demonstrate  the  connection  between  hypnotism  and  psychology, 
while  also  showing  the  value  of  the  former  art  as  a  curative  agent. 
W7ootton  is  a  man  thirty-eight  years  of  age  ;  he  is  a  lead-workerr 
and  on  Monday  weighed  lost.  2^1bs.  He  had  previously  been  in  a 
trance  for  a  week  in  Glasgow,  under  Professor  Pricker's  experi- 
enced hands,  so  was  not  altogether  new  to  the  business  ;  but  he  is 
the  first  to  be  'buried  alive'  by  way  of  amusement.  To  the  un- 
initiated the  whole  thing  was  gruesome  in  the  extreme,  and  this 
particular  form  of  entertainment  certainly  cannot  be  commended. 
Before  being  covered  in,  Wootton's  nose  and  ears  were  stopped 
with  wax,  which  was  removed  before  he  was  revived  on  Saturday. 
The  theory  of  the  burial  is  to  secure  an  equable  temperature  day 
and  night— which  is  impossible  when  the  subject  is  above  ground 


in  the  ordinary  way — and  therefore  to  induce  a  deeper  trance.  Of 
course,  too,  the  patient  was  out  of  reach  of  the  operator,  and  no 
suspicion  of  continuous  hypnotising  could  rest  upon  the  professor. 
No  nourishment  could  be  supplied  for  the  same  reason,  though 
the  man's  lips  were  occasionally  moistened  by  means  of  a  damp 
sponge  on  the  end  of  a  rod,  and  no  record  of  temperature  or 
respiration  could  be  kept.  A  good  many  people  witnessed  the 
digging  up  process,  and  the  awakening  took  place  in  the  concert 
room,  whither  the  casket  and  its  burden  were  conveyed.  The 
professor  was  not  long  in  arousing  his  subject,  after  electric  and 
other  tests  had  been  applied  to  convince  the  audience  that  the 
man  was  perfectly  insensible  to  pain  and  everything  else.  Indeed, 
a  large  needle  was  run  through  the  flesh  on  the  back  of  the  hand 
without  any  effect  whatever.  The  first  thing  on  regaining  con- 
sciousness that  Wootton  said  was  that  he  could  not  see,  and  then 
he  asked  for  drink — milk,  and  subsequently  a  little  brandy,  being 
supplied.  As  soon  as  possible  the  patient  was  lifted  out  of  his  box, 
and  with  help  was  quickly  able  to  walk  about  the  platform.  He 
complained  of  considerable  stiffness  of  the  limbs,  and  was  un- 
doubtedly weak,  but  otherwise  seemed  none  the  worse  for  his 
remarkable  retirement  from  active  life,  and  abstention  from  food 
for  nearly  a  week.  He  was  swathed  in  flannel,  and  soon  found  the 
heat  of  the  room  very  oppressive,  though  at  first  he  appeared  to 
be  particularly  anxious  to  have  his  overcoat  and  his  boots.  It 
is  anticipated  that  in  a  day  or  two  at  most  Wootton  will  have 
regained  his  usual  vigorous  health." 


Dr.  Hartmann  in  "Premature  Burial,"  page  23,  re- 
lates an  account  of  a  similar  experiment  with  a  fakir, 
differing  from  the  above,  however,  in  so  far  as  it  was 
made  by  some  English  residents,  who  did  not  put  the 
coffin  into  the  earth,  but  hung  it  up  in  the  air,  so  as  to 
protect  it  from  the  danger  of  being  eaten  up  by  white 
ants.  There  seems  to  be  hardly  any  limitation  in  regard 
to  the  time  during  which  such  a  body  may  be  preserved 


and  become  reanimated  again,  provided  that  it  is  well 
protected,  although  modern  ignorance  may  smile  at  this 

Those  of  our  readers  who  wish  to  pursue  this  subject 
will  find  ample  material  in  "  Observations  on  Trance  and 
Human  Hibernation/'  1850,  by  James  Braid,  M.R.C.S.  ; 
Dr.  Kuhn's  report  of  his  investigations  of  the  Indian 
fakirs  to  the  Anthropological  Society  of  Munich,  in 
1895  ;  the  researches  of  Dr.  J.  M.  Honigberger,  a 
German  physician  long  resident  in  India  ;  and  in  the 
India  Journal  of  Medical  and  Physical  Science,  1836, 
vol.  i.,  p.  389,  etc. 



AT  the  sitting  of  the  Paris  Academy  of  Medicine, 
on  April  10,  1827,  a  paper  was  read  by  M.  Chantourelle 
on  the  danger  of  hasty  burial.  This  led  to  a  discussion, 
in  which  M.  Desgenettes  stated  that  he  had  been  told 
by  Dr.  Thouret,  who  presided  at  the  destruction  of 
the  vaults  of  Les  Innocens,  that  many  skeletons  had 
been  found  in  positions  seeming  to  show  that  they  had 
turned  in  their  coffins.  Dr.  Thouret  was  so  much  im- 
pressed by  the  circumstance  that  he  had  a  special  clause 
inserted  in  his  will  relating  to  his  own  burial. 

Similar  revelations,  according  to  Kempner,  have  fol- 
lowed the  examinations  of  graveyards  in  Holland,  and 
in  New  York  and  other  parts  of  the  United  States. 

The  Casket,  Rochester,  New  York,  U.S.,  of  March  2, 
1896,  gives  a  detailed  narrative  of  recent  discoveries 
made  by  T.  M.  Montgomery  in  the  removal  of  Fort 
Randall  Cemetery,  with  the  condition  of  the  bodies 
found  as  to  decay  or  state  of  preservation,  and  says  : — 

"  We  found  among  these  remains  two  that  bore  every 
evidence  of  having  been  buried  alive.  The  first  case 
was  that  of  a  soldier  that  had  been  struck  by  lightning. 
Upon  opening  the  lid  of  the  coffin  we  found  that  the 
legs  and  arms  had  been  drawn  up  as  far  as  the  confines  of 
the  coffin  would  permit.  The  other  was  a  case  of  death 
resulting  from  alcoholism.  The  body  was  slightly 


turned,  the  legs  were  drawn  up  a  trifle,  and  the  hands 
were  clutching  the  clothing.  In  the  coffin  was  found  a 
large  whisky  flask.  Nearly  two  per  cent,  of  those 
exhumed  here  were,  no  doubt,  victims  of  suspended 

Professor  Alexander  Wilder,  M.D.,  in  a  pamphlet 
entitled  "  Burying  Alive  a  Frequent  Peril,"  mentions  a 
number  of  cases.  Among  them  he  cites  the  case  of  the 
body  of  a  boy,  six  years  old,  discovered  during  the 
removal  of  remains  from  a  village  cemetery  to  a  new 
one  at  Philadelphia,  in  which  the  arms  were  bent  over 
the  skull,  one  leg  drawn  up,  and  the  other  bent  across  it 
in  such  a  way  as  to  show  that  the  little  fellow,  twenty  years 
before,  had  been  hurried  to  the  grave  whilst  still  alive. 

Another  case,  of  which  he  gives  the  name  and  address, 
is  that  of  a  man  of  thirty-five,  who  was  supposed  to  have 
died  from  scarlet  fever,  and  was  buried  forty-eight  hours 
after.  The  coffin  having  to  be  moved  two  months  later, 
consequent  upon  another  interment,  the  glass  front  was 
found  to  be  shattered,  the  bottom  kicked  out,  and  the 
sides  sprung.  The  body  lay  face  downwards,  the  arms 
were  bent,  and  in  the  clenched  fists  were  handfuls  of  hair. 


Dr.  Chew  says  : — "  Though  a  layman,  still  it  would  be 
hard  to  find  a  more  indefatigable  sanitarian  than  my 
late  commanding  officer,  Lieutenant-Colonel  R.  C. 
Sterndale,  of  the  Presidency  Volunteer  Rifle  Battalion, 
and  for  many  years  vice-chairman  of  the  municipality  of 
the  suburbs  of  Calcutta.  In  order  to  prove  his  theory 
that  a  great  deal  of  danger  existed  in  the  rainy  season 
from  subsoil  water  rising  up  into  the  graves,  saturating 

A   VOICE   FROM   INDIA.  83 

the  bodies,  and  then  poisoning  the  neighbouring  tanks 
and  wells,  he  caused  a  trench,  ten  feet  long,  six  deep, 
and  four  wide,  to  be  dug  across  an  old  Mohammedan 
graveyard.  Soundings  and  measurements  having  been 
taken  of  the  subsoil  water,  he  had  a  tarpaulin  stretched 
over  the  trench,  and  daily  measured  the  '  fall '  of  the 
water-level.  He  had  a  drawing  made  of  the  section  of 
that  graveyard  in  which  the  action  of  the  nitre-laden 
water  seemed  to  mummify  some  of  the  bodies.  Amongst 
the  rest  was  a  somewhat  mummified  male  corpse  which, 
instead  of  being  on  his  back,  was  lying  on  his  abdomen  ; 
the  left  arm  supported  the  chin,  but  had  a  piece  of  it 
missing  ;  the  right  hand  clutched  the  left  elbow,  and  the 
general  position  of  the  body  was  as  if,  consciousness 
having  returned,  the  alleged  corpse  sat  up,  found  the 
weight  of  the  earth  too  heavy  to  work  through,  and  then, 
dying  of  suffocation,  fell  forward  in  the  position  in  which 
it  was  found  and  exposed." 

Dr.  Chew  adds  : — "  I  have  heard  and  read  of  several 
other  instances,  but  as  they  have  not  come  within  my 
personal  observation,  I  do  not  mention  or  refer  to  them." 


On  July  2,  1896,  the  author  visited  the  grave  of 
Madam  Blunden,  in  the  Cemetery,  Basingstoke,  Hants, 
who,  according  to  the  inscription  (now  obliterated),  was 
buried  alive.  The  following  narrative  appears  in  "  The 
Uncertainty  of  the  Signs  of  Death,"  by  Surgeon  M. 
Cooper,  London,  1746,  pp.  78,  79  :— 

"  At  Basingstoke,  in  Hampshire,  not  many  years  ago, 
a  gentlewoman  of  character  and  fortune  was  taken  ill, 
and,  to  all  appearances,  died,  while  her  husband  was  on 


a  journey  to  London.  A  messenger  was  forthwith 
despatched  to  the  gentleman,  who  returned  immediately, 
and  ordered  everything  for  her  decent  interment. 
Accordingly,  on  the  third  day  after  her  supposed 
decease,  she  was  buried  in  Holy  Ghost  Chapel,  at  the 
outside  of  the  town,  in  a  vault  belonging  to  the  family, 
over  which  there  is  a  school  for  poor  children,  endowed 
by  a  charitable  gentleman  in  the  reign  of  Edward  VI. 
It  happened  the  next  day  that  the  boys,  while  they 
were  at  play,  heard  a  noise  in  the  vault,  and  one  of 
them  ran  and  told  his  master,  who,  not  crediting  what 
he  said,  gave  him  a  box  on  the  ear  and  sent  him  about 
his  business  ;  but,  upon  the  other  boys  coming  with  the 
same  story,  his  curiosity  was  awakened,  so  that  he  sent 
immediately  for  the  sexton,  and  opened  the  vault  and 
the  lady's  coffin,  where  they  found  her  just  expiring. 
All  possible  means  were  used  to  recover  her  to  life,  but 
to  no  purpose,  for  she,  in  her  agony,  had  bit  the  nails 
off  her  fingers,  and  tore  her  face  and  head  to  that 
degree,  that,  notwithstanding  all  the  care  that  was  taken 
of  her,  she  died  in  a  few  hours  in  inexpressible  torment." 


The  Sunday  Times,  London,  December  30,  1838, 
contains  the  following  : — 

"A  frightful  case  of  premature  interment  occurred  not  long 
since,  at  Tonneins,  in  the  Lower  Garonne.  The  victim,  a  man 
in  the  prime  of  life,  had  only  a  few  shovelfuls  of  earth  thrown  into 
his  grave,  when  an  indistinct  noise  was  heard  to  proceed  from  his 
coffin.  The  grave-digger,  terrified  beyond  description,  instantly 
fled  to  seek  assistance,  and  some  time  elapsed  before  his  return, 
when  the  crowd,  which  had  by  this  time  collected  in  considerable 
numbers  round  the  grave,  insisted  on  the  coffin  being  opened.  As 


soon  as  the  first  boards  had  been  removed,  it  was  ascertained, 
beyond  a  doubt,  that  the  occupant  had  been  interred  alive.  His 
countenance  was  frightfully  contracted  with  the  agony  he  had 
undergone  ;  and,  in  his  struggles,  the  unhappy  man  had  forced  his 
arms  completely  out  of  the  winding  sheet,  in  which  they  had  been 
securely  enveloped.  A  physician,  who  was  on  the  spot,  opened  a 
vein,  but  no  blood  flowed.  The  sufferer  was  beyond  the  reach 
of  art." 

From  the  Times,  July  7,  1867,  p.  12,  col.  3. 

"  The  Journal  de  Pontarlier  relates  a  case  of  premature  inter- 
ment. During  the  funeral,  three  days  back,  of  a  young  woman  at 
Montflorin,  who  had  apparently  died  in  an  epileptic  fit,  the  grave- 
digger,  after  having  thrown  a  spadeful  of  earth  on  the  coffin, 
thought  he  heard  a  moaning  from  the  tomb.  The  body  was 
consequently  exhumed,  and  a  vein  having  been  opened,  yielded 
blood  almost  warm  and  liquid.  Hopes  were  for  a  moment  enter- 
tained that  the  young  woman  would  recover  from  her  lethargy, 
but  she  never  did  so  entirely,  and  the  next  day  life  was  found  to 
be  extinct." 

From  the  Lancet,  October  19,  1867,  p.  504. 

"The  Journal  de  Morlaix  mentions  that  a  young  woman  at 
Bohaste,  France,  who  was  supposed  to  have  died  from  cholera  a 
few  days  back,  was  buried  on  the  following  afternoon.  The 
sexton,  when  about  to  fill  in  the  grave,  fancied  that  he  heard  a 
noise  in  the  coffin,  and  sent  for  the  medical  officer,  who,  on  re- 
moving the  lid  and  examining  the  body,  gave  it  as  his  opinion 
that  the  woman  had  been  alive  when  buried." 

The  official  journal  of  the  French  Senate,  January  30. 
1869,  records  that  the  attention  of  the  Senate  was  called 
to  this  case  by  means  of  a  petition  signed  by  seven 
residents  in  Paris,  and  the  facts  are  confirmed  by  L. 
Roger,  Officier  de  Sante. 


From  the  Daily  Telegraph,  January  18,  1889. 

"  A  gendarme  was  buried  alive  the  other  day  in  a  village  near 
Grenoble.  The  man  had  become  intoxicated  on  potato  brandy, 
and  fell  into  a  profound  sleep.  After  twenty  hours  passed  in 
slumber,  his  friends  considered  him  to  be  dead,  particularly  as 
his  body  assumed  the  usual  rigidity  of  a  corpse.  When  the 
sexton,  however,  was  lowering  the  remains  of  the  ill-fated  gen- 
darme into  the  grave,  he  heard  moans  and  knocks  proceeding 
from  the  interior  of  the  'four-boards.'  He  immediately  bored 
holes  in  the  sides  of  the  coffin,  to  let  in  air,  and  then  knocked  off 
the  lid.  The  gendarme  had,  however,  ceased  to  live,  having 
horribly  mutilated  his  head  in  his  frantic  but  futile  efforts  to  burst 
his  coffin  open." 

The  Undertakers  Journal,  September  22,  1893. 

"  A  shocking  occurrence  is  reported  from  Cesa,  a  little  village 
near  Naples.  A  woman  living  at  that  place  was  recently  seized 
with  sudden  illness.  A  doctor  who  was  called  certified  that  the 
woman  was  dead,  and  the  body  was  consequently  placed  in  a 
coffin,  which  was  deposited  in  the  watch-house  of  the  local 
cemetery.  Next  day  an  old  woman  passing  close  to  the  cemetery 
thought  she  heard  smothered  cries  proceeding  from  the  watch- 
house.  The  family  was  informed,  but  when  the  lid  of  the  coffin 
was  forced  off  a  shocking  spectacle  presented  itself  to  the  gaze  of 
the  horrified  villagers.  The  wretched  woman  had  turned  on  her 
side,  and  the  position  of  her  arm  showed  that  she  had  made  a 
desperate  effort  to  raise  the  lid.  The  eldest  son,  who  was  among 
the  persons  who  broke  open  the  coffin,  received  such  a  shock  that 
he  died  three  days  later." 

From  the  London  Echo,  October  6,  1894. 

"  A  story  of  a  horrible  nature  comes  from  St.  Petersburg  in 
connection  with  the  interment  at  Tioobayn,  near  that  city,  of  a 
peasant  girl  named  Antonova.  She  had  presumably  died,  and  in 
due  course  the  funeral  took  place.  After  the  service  at  the 
cemetery,  the  grave-diggers  were  startled  by  sounds  of  moaning 
proceeding  from  the  coffin.  Instead,  however,  of  instantly  breaking 


it  open,  they  rushed  off  to  find  a  doctor,  and  when  he  and  some 
officials  arrived  and  broke  open  the  shell,  the  unhappy  inmate  was 
already  the  corpse  she  had  been  supposed  to  be  a  day  earlier.  It 
was  evident,  however,  that  no  efforts  could  have  saved  life  at  the 
last  moment.  The  body  was  half-turned  in  the  coffin,  the  left  hand, 
having  escaped  its  bandages,  being  under  the  cheek." 

The  London  Star,  August  19,  1895. 

"Grenoble,  August  17. 

"  On  Monday  last  a  man  was  found  in  a  dying  condition  by  the 
side  of  a  brook  near  the  village  of  Le  Pin.  Everything  possible 
was  done  for  him,  but  he  relapsed  into  unconsciousness,  and 
became  to  all  appearance  dead.  The  funeral  was  arranged,  and 
there  being  no  suspicion  of  foul  play,  the  body  was  interred  on 
the  following  day.  The  coffin  had  been  lowered  to  the  bottom  of 
the  grave,  and  the  sexton  had  begun  to  cover  it  with  earth,  when 
he  heard  muffled  sounds  proceeding  from  it.  The  earth  was 
hastily  removed  and  the  coffin  opened,  when  it  was  discovered 
that  the  unfortunate  occupant  was  alive.  He  was  taken  to  a 
neighbouring  house,  but  rapidly  sank  into  a  comatose  condition, 
and  died  without  uttering  a  word.  The  second  burial  took  place 

A  writer  in  the  Referee,  May  19,  1901,  makes  the 
following  statement : — 

"  I  once,  in  my  childhood's  days,  saw  a  man  who  had  been 
buried  alive  in  the  churchyard  attached  to  St.  Paul's  Church, 
Deptford.  It  was  at  the  period  of  the  terrible  cholera  visitation 
which  occurred,  as  near  as  I  can  remember,  about  fifty  years  ago. 
The  burial  had  proceeded  as  far  as  the  dirt  being  sprinkled  on  the 
coffin  when  the  bystanders  thought  they  heard  a  noise  proceeding 
from  it.  The  coffin  was  quickly  raised,  and  it  was  found  that  the 
man  had  torn  the  nails  of  his  hands  and  feet  off  in  his  endeavours 
to  get  out.  He  was  taken  into  my  father's  house,  the  Pilot,  a 
public-house  now  known  by  another  sign,  where  he  was  promptly 
attended  to.  I  saw  him  about  Deptford  for  years  after.  Perhaps 
some  old  Deptford  reader  may  also  remember  the  circumstances." 



Mr.  Oscar  F.  Shaw,  Attorney-at-Law,  145  Broadway, 
New  York,  furnished  the  author  with  particulars  of  the 
following  case,  of  which  he  had  personal  knowledge  : — 
"In  or  about  the  year  1851,  Virginia  Macdonald,  who 
up  to  that  time  had  lived  with  her  father  in  Catherine 
Street,  in  the  City  of  New  York,  apparently  died,  and 
was  buried  in  Greenwood  Cemetery,  Brooklyn,  N.Y. 

"  After  the  burial  her  mother  declared  her  belief  that 
the  daughter  was  not  dead  when  buried,  and  persist- 
ently asserted  her  belief.  The  family  tried  in  various 
ways  to  assure  the  mother  of  the  death  of  her  daughter, 
and  even  resorted  to  ridicule  for  that  purpose  ;  but  the 
mother  insisted  so  long  and  so  strenuously  that  her 
daughter  was  buried  alive,  that  finally  the  family  con- 
sented to  have  the  body  taken  up,  when,  to  their 
horror,  they  discovered  the  body  lying  on  the  side,  the 
hands  badly  bitten,  and  every  indication  of  a  premature 

The  Daily  Express  of  June  15,  1903,  cites  a  horrible 
case,  from  its  Paris  correspondent,  of  a  boy  buried 
alive  : — 

"A  ghastly  incident  is  reported  from  Benevent,  where  a  boy, 
fourteen  years  of  age,  was  taken  ill,  and  three  days  ago  was 
declared  to  be  dead.  The  mother  went  almost  mad  with  grief,  and 
force  had  to  be  used  to  get  the  body  from  her  for  interment, 
asserting  that  her  son  was  not  dead.  The  day  after  the  funeral 
she  was  discovered  to  have  reopened  the  grave,  removing  the 
earth  with  her  hands,  and  to  prove  to  her  that  her  son  was  really 
dead  when  buried  the  sexton  opened  the  coffin.  It  was  then  found 
that  the  boy,  whose  body  was  frightfully  contorted,  had  actually 
been  suffocated  in  the  coffin." 


The  Daily  Mail,  August  3,  1903,  publishes  the 
following  from  its  St.  Petersburg  correspondent  :— 

"  A  terrible  occurrence  is  reported  from  the  South  Russian  town, 
Novocherkask.  The  wife  of  a  landed  proprietor  in  the  vicinity 
having  died,  the  Orthodox  priest  persuaded  the  widower  to  have 
her  buried  at  once  on  account  of  the  excessive  heat,  which  was 
likely  to  hasten  decomposition.  After  the  funeral,  however,  the 
bereaved  husband  began  to  feel  very  uneasy,  and  on  the  third  day 
he  asked  the  priest's  permission  to  exhume  the  body  to  see  if  his 
wife  were  really  dead.  When  the  coffin  was  opened  a  terrible 
sight  presented  itself  to  the  horror-stricken  husband.  There  had 
evidently  been  a  great  struggle,  as  through  the  ignorance  of  the 
priest  the  woman  had  been  buried  while  in  a  comatose  state." 


The  Lancet,  May  22,  1858,  p.  519,  has  the  follow- 

"A  case  of  restoration  to  consciousness  after  burial  is  recorded 
by  the  Austrian  journals  in  the  person  of  a  rich  manufacturer, 
named  Oppelt,  at  Rudenberg.  He  was  buried  fifteen  years  ago, 
and  lately,  on  opening  the  vault,  the  lid  of  the  coffin  was  found 
forced  open,  and  his  skeleton  in  a  sitting  posture  in  a  corner  of  the 
vault.  A  Government  Commission  has  reported  on  the  matter." 

From  the  Times,  May  6,  1874,  p.  n,  foot  of  col.  4. 

"The  Messager  du  Midi  relates  the  following  dreadful  story  :— 
A  young  married  woman  residing  at  Salon  (Douches  du  Rhone) 
died  shortly  after  her  confinement  in  August  last.  The  medical 
man,  who  was  hastily  summoned  when  her  illness  assumed  a 
dangerous  form,  certified  her  death,  and  recommended  immediate 
burial  in  consequence  of  the  intense  heat  then  prevailing,  and 
six  hours  afterwards  the  body  was  interred.  A  few  days  since, 
the  husband  having  resolved  to  re-marry,  the  mother  of  his  late 
wife  desired  to  have  her  daughter's  remains  removed  to  her  native 
town,  Marseilles.  When  the  vault  was  opened  a  horrible  sight 
presented  itself.  The  corpse  lay  in  the  middle  of  the  vault,  with 



dishevelled  hair  and  the  linen  torn  to  pieces.  It  evidently  had 
been  gnawed  in  her  agony  by  the  unfortunate  victim.  The  shock 
which  the  dreadful  spectacle  caused  to  the  mother  has  been  so 
great  that  fears  are  entertained  for  her  reason,  if  not  for  her  life." 

The  British  Medical  Journal,  December  8,  1877, 
p.  819,  inserts  the  following:— 

"  A  correspondent  at  Naples  states  that  the  Appeal  Court  has 
had  before  it  a  case  not  likely  to  inspire  confidence  in  the  minds 
of  those  who  look  forward  with  horror  to  the  possibility  of  being 
buried  alive.  It  appeared  from  the  evidence  that  some  time  ago 
a  woman  was  interred  with  all  the  usual  formalities,  it  being 
believed  that  she  was  dead,  while  she  was  only  in  a  trance. 
Some  days  afterwards,  the  grave  in  which  she  had  been  placed 
being  opened  for  the  reception  of  another  body,  it  was  found  that 
the  clothes  which  covered  the  unfortunate  woman  were  torn  to 
pieces,  and  that  she  had  even  broken  her  limbs  in  attempting  to 
extricate  herself  from  the  living  tomb.  The  Court,  after  hearing 
the  case,  sentenced  the  doctor  who  had  signed  the  certificate  of 
decease,  and  the  mayor  who  had  authorised  the  interment,  each 
to  three  months'  imprisonment  for  involuntary  manslaughter." 

The  following  remarkable  case  of  waking  in  the  grave 
is  reported  from  Vienna  : — 

"  A  lady  residing  at  Derbisch,  near  Kolin,  in  Bohemia,  where 
she  owned  considerable  property,  was  buried  last  week,  after  a 
brief  illness,  in  the  family  vault  at  the  local  cemetery.  Four  days 
afterwards  her  granddaughter  was  interred  in  the  same  place,  but 
as  the  stone  slab  covering  the  aperture  was  removed,  the  by- 
standers were  horrified  to  see  that  the  lid  of  the  coffin  below  had 
been  raised,  and  that  the  arm  of  the  corpse  was  protruding.  It 
was  ascertained  eventually  that  the  unfortunate  lady,  who  was 
supposed  to  have  died  of  heart  disease,  had  been  buried  alive. 
She  had  evidently  recovered  consciousness  for  a  few  minutes,  and 
had  found  strength  enough  to  burst  open  her  coffin.  The  authori- 
ties are  bent  on  taking  measures  of  the  utmost  severity  against 
those  responsible." — Undertakers'  Journal,  August  22,  1889. 


The  Undertakers'  and  Funeral  Directors'  Journal, 
July  22,  1890. 

"A  horrible  story  comes  from  Majola,  Mantua.  The  body  of 
a  woman,  named  Lavrinia  Merli,  a  peasant,  who  was  supposed  to 
have  died  from  hysterics,  was  placed  in  a  vault  on  Thursday, 
July  3.  On  Saturday  evening  it  was  found  that  the  woman  had 
regained  consciousness,  torn  her  grave-clothes  in  her  struggles, 
had  turned  completely  over  in  the  coffin,  and  had  given  birth  to  a 
seven-months'-old  child.  Both  mother  and  child  were  dead  when 
the  coffin  was  opened  for  the  last  time  previous  to  interment." 

The  London  Globe,  October  26,  1896,  mentions  the 
following  case  : — 

"A  soldier's  wife  was  reported  by  a  military  surgeon  to  have 
died  during  her  confinement.  She  was  buried  on  his  certificate  of 
death  ;  but  about  two  days  afterwards  the  baby  to  whom  she  had 
given  birth  was  also  reported  dead.  The  mother's  coffin  was  then 
disinterred  and  opened,  with  the  view  of  placing  the  deceased  baby 
in  it ;  but,  horrible  to  relate,  it  was  discovered  by  only  too  evident 
signs  that  the  woman  had  been  buried  alive,  and  had  recovered 
consciousness  after  burial." 


The  following  case,  published  in  the  Spectator,  October 
19,  1895,  is  instructive  in  that  the  victim  was  exhumed 
without  an  order  from  the  Home  Secretary,  or  waiting 
for  any  formalities,  and  was  restored  to  life : — 

"  Sir, — Apropos  of  your  article  and  the  correspondence  about 
being  buried  alive,  in  the  Spectator  of  September  28,  the  enclosed 
may  interest  you.  It  is  an  extract  which  I  have  copied  to-day 
out  of  a  letter  to  a  neighbour  of  mine  from  his  brother  in  Ireland, 
dated  October  6,  1895: — 'About  three  weeks  ago,  our  kitchen- 
maid  asked  leave  to  go  away  for  two  or  three  days  to  see  her 
mother,  who  was  dying.  She  came  back  again  on  a  Friday  or 


Saturday,  saying  her  mother  was  dead  and  buried.  On  Wednesday 
she  got  a  letter  saying  her  mother  had  been  dug  up,  and  was  alive 
and  getting  all  right.  So  she  went  up  to  see  her,  and  sure  enough 

there  she  was  "right  enough,"  as  G says,  having  got  out  of 

her  trance,  and  knowing  nothing  about  being  in  her  grave  from 
Saturday  till  Tuesday.  The  only  thing  she  missed  was  her  rings  ; 
she  could  not  make  out  where  they  had  got  to.  Her  daughter,  it 
seems,  told  the  doctor  on  her  way  back  here  that  it  struck  her  that 
her  mother  had  never  got  stiff  after  death,  and  she  could  not  help 
thinking  it  was  very  odd  ;  and  it  made  her  very  uncomfortable. 
He  never  said  a  word  ;  and  the  kitchen-maid  heard  nothing  until 
she  got  the  letter  saying  her  mother  was  back  again  and  alive. 
Luckily,  she  did  not  "come  to"  until  she  had  been  taken  out  of 
her  coffin.  It  was  a  "rum  go"  altogether.  They  say  exactly  the 
same  thing  happened  to  a  sister  of  hers  who  is  now  alive  and 
well.' — I  am,  Sir,  etc., 



The  Undertakers  and  Funeral  Directors  Journal,  July 
22,  1889,  relates  the  following  cases  : — 

"A  New  York  undertaker  recently  tolcl  the  following  story,  the 
circumstances  of  which  are  still  remembered  by  old  residents  of 
the  city  : — 'About  forty  years  ago  a  lady  living  on  Division  Street. 
New  York  City,  fell  dead,  apparently,  while  in  the  act  of  dancing 
at  a  ball.  It  was  a  fashionable  affair,  and  being  able  to  afford  it. 
she  wore  costly  jewellery.  Her  husband,  a  flour  merchant,  who 
loved  her  devotedly,  resolved  that  she  should  be  interred  in  her 
ball  dress,  diamonds,  pearls,  and  all ;  also  that  there  should  be  no 
autopsy.  As  the  weather  was  very  inclement  when  the  funeral 
reached  the  cemetery,  the  body  was  placed  in  the  receiving  vault 
for  burial  next  day.  The  undertaker  was  not  a  poor  man,  but  he- 
was  avaricious,  and  he  made  up  his  mind  to  possess  the  jewellery. 
He  went  in  the  night,  and  took  the  lady's  watch  from  the  folds  of 
her  dress.  He  next  began  to  draw  a  diamond  ring  from  her 
finger,  and  in  doing  so  had  to  use  violence  enough  to  tear  the  skin. 
Then  the  lady  moved  and  groaned,  and  the  thief,  terrified  and 


conscience -stricken,  fled  from  the  cemetery,  and  has  never  been  since 
heard  from,  that  I  know  of.  The  lady,  after  the  first  emotions  of 
horror  at  her  unheard-of  position  had  passed  over,  gathered  her 
nerves  together  and  stepped  out  of  the  vault,  which  the  thief  had 
left  open.  How  she  came  home  I  cannot  tell ;  but  this  I  know — 
she  lived  and  had  children,  two  at  least  of  whom  are  alive  to-day.' 

"Another  New  York  undertaker  told  this  story.  The  New  York 
papers  thirty-five  years  ago  were  full  of  its  ghastly  details.  *  The 
daughter  of  a  Court  Street  baker  died.  It  was  in  winter,  and  the 
father,  knowing  that  a  married  sister  of  his  dead  child,  who  lived 
in  St.  Louis,  would  like  to  see  her  face  before  being  laid  in  the  grave 
for  ever,  had  the  body  placed  in  the  vault,  waiting  her  arrival.  The 
sister  came,  the  vault  was  opened,  the  lid  of  the  coffin  taken  off, 
when,  to  the  unutterable  horror  of  the  friends  assembled,  they 
found  the  grave-clothes  torn  in  shreds,  and  the  fingers  of  both 
hands  eaten  off.  The  girl  had  been  buried  alive.' 

"Until  about  forty  years  ago  a  noted  family  of  Virginia  pre- 
•served  a  curious  custom,  which  had  been  religiously  observed  for 
more  than  a  century.  Over  a  hundred  years  ago  a  member  of  the 
family  died,  and,  upon  being  exhumed,  was  found  to  have  been 
buried  alive.  From  that  time  until  about  1850,  every  member  of 
the  family,  man,  woman,  or  child,  who  died,  was  stabbed  in  the 
heart  with  a  knife  in  the  hands  of  the  head  of  the  house.  The 
reason  for  the  cessation  of  this  custom  was  that  in  1850  or  there- 
abouts, a  beautiful  young  girl  was  supposed  to  be  dead,  the  knife 
was  plunged  into  her  bosom,  when  she  gave  vent  to  a  fearful 
scream  and  died.  She  had  merely  been  in  a  trance.  The  incident 
broke  her  father's  heart,  and  in  a  fit  of  remorse  he  killed  himself 
not  long  afterwards. 

"There  are  many  families  in  the  United  States  who,  when  any 
of  their  number  dies,  insist  that  an  artery  be  opened  to  determine 
whether  life  has  fled  or  not." 


While  in  India,  in  the  early  part  of  the  year  1896, 
Dr.  Roger  S.  Chew,  of  Calcutta,  who,  having  been  laid 
out  for  dead,  and  narrowly  escaped  living  sepulture,  has 

\  ; 


had  the  best  reasons  for  studying  the  subject,  gave  me 
particulars  of  the  following  cases  :— 

"  Frank  Lascelles,  aged  thirty-two  years,  was  seated  at  breakfast 
with  a  number  of  us  young  fellows,  and  was  in  the  middle  of  a 
burst  of  hearty  laughter  when  his  head  fell  forward  on  his  plate 
and  he  was  'dead.'  As  there  was  a  distinct  history  of  cardiac  dis- 
ease in  his  family,  while  he  himself  had  frequently  been  treated  for 
valvular  disease  of  the  heart,  he  was  alleged  to  have  'died''  of  car- 
diac failure,  and  was  duly  interred  in  the  Coonor  Cemetery.  Some 
six  months  later,  permission  was  obtained  to  remove  his  remains 
to  St.  John's  Churchyard  in  Ootacamund.  The  coffin  was  ex- 
humed, and,  as  a  '  matter  of  form,'  the  lid  removed  to  identify  the 
resident,  when,  to  the  horror  of  the  lookers-on,  it  was  noticed  that, 
though  mummification  had  taken  place,  there  had  been  a  fearful 
struggle  underground,  for  the  body,  instead  of  being  on  its  back  as 
it  was  when  first  coffined,  Avas  lying  on  its  face,  with  its  arms  and 
legs  drawn  up  as  close  as  the  confined  space  would  permit.  His 
trousers  (a  perfectly  new  pair)  were  burst  at  the  left  knee,  while  his 
shirt-front  was  torn  to  ribbons  and  bloodstained,  and  the  wood  of 
that  portion  of  the  coffin  immediately  below  his  mouth  was  stained 
a  deep  reddish-brown-black  (blood).  Old  Dr.  Donaldson,  whom, 
we  were  all  very  fond  of,  tried  to  explain  matters  by  saying  that  the 
jolting  of  the  coffin  on  its  way  to  the  cemetery  had  overturned  the 
body,  and  that  the  blood  stains  on  the  shirt  and  wood  were  the 
natural  result  of  blood  flowing  (i.e.,  oozing)  out  of  the  mouth  of  the 
corpse  as  it  lay  face  do\vnwards.  A  nice  theory,  but  scarcely  a 
probable  one,  as  all  the  jolting  in  creation  could  not  possibly  turn 
a  corpse  over  in  an  Indian  coffin,  which  is  so  built  that  there  is 
scarcely  two  inches  spare  space  over  any  portion  of  the  contained 
body,  and  unless  the  supposed  corpse  regained  consciousness  and 
exerted  considerable  force,  it  could  not  possibly  turn  round  in  its 
narrow  casket. 

"  Mary  Norah  Best,  aged  seventeen  years,  an  adopted  daughter 
of  Mrs.  C.  A.  Moore,  nee  Chew,  'died'  of  cholera,  and  was  en- 
tombed in  the  Chew's  vault  in  the  old  French  cemetery  at  Calcutta. 
The  certifying  surgeon  was  a  man  who  would  have  benefited  by 
her  death,  and  had  twice  (though  ineffectually)  attempted  to  put  an 


end  to  her  adopted  mother,  who  fled  from  India  to  England  after 
the  second  attempt  on  her  life,  but,  unfortunately,  left  the  girl 
behind.  When  Mary  'died3  she  was  put  into  a  pine  coffin,  the 
lid  of  which  was  nailed,  not  screwed,  down.  In  1881,  ten  years 
or  so  later,  the  vault  was  unsealed  to  admit  the  body  of  Mrs. 
Moore's  brother,  J.  A.  A.  Chew.  On  entering  the  vault,  the  under- 
taker's assistant  and  I  found  the  lid  of  Mary's  coffin  on  the  floor, 
while  the  position  of  the  skeleton  (half  in,  half  out  of  the  coffin, 
and  an  ugly  gash  across  the  right  parietal  bone)  plainly  showed 
that  after  being  entombed  Mary  awoke  from  the  trance,  struggled 
violently  till  she  wrenched  the  lid  off  her  coffin,  when  she  either 
fainted  away  with  the  strain  of  the  effort  in  bursting  open  her 
casket,  and  while  falling  forward  over  the  edge  of  her  coffin  struck 
her  head  against  the  masonry  shelf,  and  died  almost  immediately  ; 
or,  worse  still — as  surmised  by  some  of  her  clothing  which  was 
found  hanging  over  the  edge  of  the  coffin,  and  the  position  of  her 
right  hand,  the  fingers  of  which  were  bent  and  close  to  where 
her  throat  would  have  been  had  the  flesh  not  rotted  away — she 
recovered  consciousness,  fought  for  life,  forced  her  coffin  open,  and 
sitting  up  in  the  pitchy  darkness  of  the  vault  went  mad  with 
fright,  tore  her  clothes  off,  tried  to  throttle  herself,  and  banged  her 
head  against  the  masonry  shelf  until  she  fell  forward  senseless 
and  dead." 


The   New    York   Herald  (Paris),    January   24,    1897, 
says : — 

"Dr.  Good  has  not  the  slightest  doubt  that  premature  burial 
may  take  place  on  the  battle-field,  and  cited  a  case  which  was 
afterwards  confirmed  by  Dr.  Halsterd  Boyland,  who  was  present  at 
'the  time,  and  under  whose  eyes  'the  dead  man '  came  to  life.  Dr. 
Good  continues  : — About  four  o'clock  in  the  afternoon  on  August 
14,  1870,  at  the  battle  of  Borny,  near  Metz,  I  saw  a  shell  burst  over 
the  head  of  a  tirailleur  posted  about  thirty  yards  to  the  right,  and 
in  front  of  me  he  fell  to  the  ground  dead.  At  midnight,  in  going 
over  the  field  again  to  search  for  any  wounded  that  might  have 
been  overlooked,  I  chanced  to  pass  by  that  same  spot,  and  put  my 


lantern  to  the  man's  face  ;  his  eyes  were  open  and  bloodshot,  and 
from  the  nostrils  and  mouth  had  oozed  a  bloody  froth.  I  turned 
the  head  to  the  right  and  left  to  see  where  the  shell  had  struck,  but 
not  a  scratch  anywhere,  and  the  body  neither  rigid  nor  cold.  I 
then  ordered  the  infirmiers  to  put  the  man  on  a  stretcher  and  carry 
him  to  the  little  church  where  my  temporary  ambulance  was  estab- 
lished. What  was  my  surprise  when  Dr.  Boyland,  who  was  then 
assistant  surgeon-major  in  the  same  ambulance,  came  at  four 
o'clock  in  the  morning  to  tell  me  that  my  dead  man  had  come  to 
life  again  and  asked  a  boire?  Six  weeks  later  that  soldier,  Martin, 
was  sent  back  to  his  regiment  fit  for  service.  Here  the  concussion 
of  the  brain  had  caused  inhibition  of  all  the  functions  ;  there  was 
no  heart-beat  perceptible  nor  any  sign  of  respiration,  and  if  the 
sapeurs  had  come,  as  they  sometimes  did  in  the  middle  of  the 
night  instead  of  early  next  morning  to  bury  the  dead,  this  poor 
devil  would  have  been  thrown  alive  in  the  fosse  communed 

A  correspondent  in  the  Guernsey  Star,  of  December 
1 6,  1902,  writes  as  follows  :— 

"  Some  years  since  a  pensioner  from  the  army  worked  for  my 
father.  This  ex-soldier  had  served,  in  the  Peninsular  wars, 
Crimean,  Indian,  African.  In  one  sanguinary  battle  he  was  badly 
wounded,  and  picked  up  and  laid  on  a  heap  with  many  others  who 
were  supposed  to  be  dead.  A  big  trench  was  prepared,  and  when 
ready  the  huge  mass  of  dead  bodies  was  removed  into  it.  But  now 
and  again  a  body  was  found  to  be  still  alive.  The  person  of  whom 
I  write  was  one  of  them.  His  opinion  was  that  the  hurried  burial 
of  soldiers  means  the  suffocating  in  the  earth  of  many  who  would 
recover  from  their  wounds  and  loss  of  blood  if  given  the  chance. 
Doubtless  in  the  late  war  in  Africa  many  have  been  buried  who 
were  simply  in  a  state  of  trance.;' 

Dr.  Chew  narrated  the  following  circumstance  to  the 
author : — 

"Shortly  after  the  Afghan  war  of  1878,  Surgeon-Major  T.  Barn- 
well  and  I  were  told  off  to  take  a  large  number  of  time-expired 
men,  invalids,  and  wounded,  to  Deolali  on  their  way  to  England. 


Some  of  the  wounded  were  in  a  very  critical  state,  necessitating 
great  care  ;  one  man  in  particular,  Trooper  Holmes,  of  the  loth 
Hussars,  who  had  an  ugly  bullet-wound  running  along  his  left  thigh 
and  under  the  groin.  Our  only  means  of  transport  for  these  poor 
fellows  was  the  '  palki '  or  doolie  carried  by  four  bearers  at  a  curious 
swinging  pace.  When  we  got  to  Nowshera,  Holmes  seemed  on  a 
fair  way  to  recovery,  but  the  swinging  of  the  doolie  seemed  too 
much  for  him,  and  he  grew  weaker  day  by  day  till  we  got  to 
Hassan  Abdool,  when  we  could  not  rouse  him  to  take  some 
nourishment  before  starting  on  the  march,  and  to  all  appearance 
he  seemed  perfectly  dead  ;  but  as  there  was  neither  the  time  nor 
convenience  to  hold  a  post-mortem,  we  carried  the  body  on  to 
*John  Nicholson,'  where,  the  same  difficulties  being  in  the  way, 
and  no  facilities  for  burial,  we  were  obliged  to  put  the  post-mortem 
off  for  another  day,  and  convey  the  corpse  to  Rawal  Pindi  rest 
camp,  where  we  laid  him  on  the  floor  of  the  mortuary  tent  and 
covered  him  over  with  a  tarpaulin.  This  was  his  salvation,  as 
next  morning  (i.e.,  the  third  day  succeeding  his  'death'),  when  we 
raised  the  tarpaulin  to  hold  the  post-mortem,  some  hundreds  of 
field  mice  (these  tracts  are  noted  for  them)  rushed  out,  and  we 
noticed  that  Holmes  was  breathing,  though  very  slowly — five  or 
six  respirations  to  the  minute— and  there  were  a  few  teeth  marks 
where  the  mice  had  attacked  his  calves.  To  prevent  a  relapse  by 
the  jolting  on  further  marches,  we  handed  him  over  to  the  station 
hospital  staff,  who  pulled  him  round,  and  then  forwarded  him  to 
the  headquarters  of  his  regiment  at  Meerut." 



ALMOST  every  intelligent  and  observant  person  with 
whom  you  converse,  if  the  subject  be  introduced,  has  either 
known  or  heard  of  narrow  escapes  from  premature  burial 
within  his  or  her  own  circle  of  friends  or  acquaintances  ; 
and  it  is  no  exaggeration  to  say  that  such  cases  are 
numbered  by  thousands.  It  is  to  be  hoped  that  the 
number  of  timely  discoveries  vastly  exceed  those  actually 
interred  in  a  state  of  suspended  animation  ;  but  as  no 
investigation  of  graveyards  or  cemeteries  (which  effec- 
tually conceal  their  own  tragedies)  has  ever  taken  place 
in  England  until  the  remains  are  reduced  to  dust,  and 
rarely  in  other  countries,  one  cannot  be  sure  that  this 
optimistic  view  is  correct. 

An  apparent  suspension  of  life,  following  a  serious 
illness,  is  usually  considered  a  satisfactory  proof  of  the 
reality  of  the  expected  death  ;  but  these  conditions  can- 
not always  be  relied  upon,  as  the  following  illustration 
proves : — 


I  had  been  attending  for  some  time  (about  seven 
years  ago)  a  child  aged  three  years,  who  had  suffered 
primarily  from  convulsions,  followed  by  vomiting  and 
diarrhoea,  with  subsequent  exhaustion  and  emaciation. 


There  seemed  no  hope  of  recovery,  and  I  left  my  little 
patient  one  night  fully  believing  I  had  seen  him  for  the 
last  time  alive.  I  was  late  on  my  country  rounds  next 
day,  and  when  I  arrived  at  the  cottage  I  noticed  the 
blinds  were  drawn,  and,  upon  entering,  my  eyes  at  once 
fell  upon  a  couch  pushed  into  a  corner  of  the  room,  and 
covered  by  a  white  sheet,  whilst  the  broken-hearted 
parents  were  weeping  by  the  settle.  I  sat  down  and 
tried  to  comfort  them,  and  finally  left  directions  as  to 
the  hour  when  they  might  send  for  the  death  certificate. 
Before  leaving  I  walked  toward  the  couch,  and  drew 
back  the  covering  from  the  pale  waxen  face.  The  jaw 
was  fastened  by  a  band  in  the  usual  way,  coppers  had 
been  placed  over  the  eyelids,  and  all  was  in  readiness 
for  the  shell,  which  the  undertaker  was  expected  to 
bring  in  a  few  minutes.  As  I  stood  looking  intently  at 
the  child  I  fancied  I  detected  the  slightest  movement  of 
the  chest.  It  could  but  be  imagination,  I  thought ; 
nevertheless,  instinctively  I  felt  for  the  wrist,  but  failed 
to  detect  a  pulse.  Still,  I  watched — there  again  was 
that  tremor !  I  applied  my  stethoscope  to  the  region  of 
the  heart  without  response,  but,  feeling  dissatisfied,  I 
undid  the  nightdress,  and  applied  the  instrument  to  the 
bare  skin.  I  could  hardly  believe  my  ears— there  was 
undoubtedly  a  beat !  I  shall  never  forget  the  shriek 
which  the  mother  gave  when  I  said,  "  Mrs.  W—  — ,  your 
child  is  not  dead  ! "  I  at  once  applied  hot  flannels  to 
the  feet,  and  gently  massaged  the  body  for  two  or  three 
hours,  and  had  the  satisfaction  before  I  left — long  after 
the  undertaker  had  come  and  gone — of  seeing  the  child 
taking  nourishment  in  its  mother's  arms.  He  is  now  a 
fine,  strong,  healthy  lad.  He  might  have  been — otherwise. 



This  danger  is  further  illustrated  by  an  incident  which 
was  related  at  a  meeting  of  the  London  Association  for 
the  Prevention  of  Premature  Burial,  January  28,  1903  :— 

"A  lady,  living  at  Holland  Road,  Kensington,  testified  that  on 
hearing  the  news  of  the  loss  of  her  property,  she  went  into  violent 
hysterics  for  two  hours,  and  then  was  thought  to  have  died.  After 
being  left  for  twenty-four  hours,  she  was  taken  out  of  her  bed, 
rolled  on  the  floor,  and  needles  and  pins  were  stuck  in  her.  Next 
morning  one  of  the  servants,  on  looking  at  her  body  on  the  bed, 
thought  it  moved.  The  doctor  was  sent  for  again,  but  he  certified 
that  she  was  undoubtedly  dead,  and  so  the  coffin  was  ordered. 
Three  hours  afterwards  her  daughter  said  : — '  I  don't  think  mother 
is  dead,'  and  applied  some  brandy  to  the  cold  lips.  'Then  I  came  to,5 
said  the  lady,  who  added,  'That  was  five  years  ago — I  Jiave  my  death 
certificate  at  home !!!  Although  I  could  not  move,  I  could  hear 
everything.  I  heard  the  men  take  my  measurement  for  the  coffin.' ;' 

"  That,"  said  Mr.  Arthur  Lovell  (the  hon.  sec.)  "  was  a 
state  of  trance  with  which  I  am  rather  familiar.  What 
we  want  are  State-appointed  certifiers  to  examine  all 
cases  of  supposed  decease." 

"Another  lady  in  the  meeting  certified  that  she  knew  a  girl  at 
Kensington  who  "came  to'  after  being  pronounced  dead,  and  who 
remembers  hearing  the  doctor  say — 'Ah,  poor  thing,  now  she  is 
out  of  her  suffering.'" 

The  Daily  Express,  of  March  20,  1903,  and  the  Daily 
Mail,  of  the  9th,  give  details  of  the  supposed  death  of  a 
well-known  lady,  who,  with  her  family,  had  long  resided 
in  the  village  of  Woore,  near  Keele,  North  Staffordshire, 
and  who,  after  having  been  certified  as  dead  by  the 
local  physician,  was  laid  ready  for  interment  :— 

"All  preparations  for  the  funeral  had  been  made,  and  friends 
and  relatives  assembled  to  take  a  final  farewell.  As  the  mourners 

"DEAD" — BY  MEDICAL  CERTIFICATE.          lor 

watched,  the  eyes  of  the  lady  were  seen  to  open  and  her  lips  to 
move.  Life  had  returned  to  the  supposed  corpse.  The  news  of 
the  strange  event  spread  throughout  the  village  and  district,  and 
produced  the  greatest  excitement." 

The  Daily  Express,  of  January  20,  1902,  contains  the 
following  : — 

"  Fran  Alexandre  Szabo,  of  Debreczin,  Hungary,  was  certified 
dead  by  two  doctors.  She  was  placed  in  a  coffin  and  the  lid 
screwed  down.  As  the  coffin  was  being  taken  from  the  house  the 
bearers  heard  a  noise  within  it.  It  was  opened,  and  the  woman 
was  found  to  be  alive." 

The  Undertakers  Journal,  July  22,  1893,  says  :— 

"  Charles  Walker  was  supposed  to  have  died  suddenly  at  St. 
Louis  a  few  days  ago,  and  a  burial  certificate  was  obtained  in  due 
course  from  the  coroner's  office.  The  body  was  lying  in  the  coffin, 
and  the  relatives  took  a  farewell  look  at  the  features,  and  withdrew 
as  the  undertaker's  assistants  advanced  to  screw  down  the  lid.  One 
of  the  undertaker's  men  noticed,  however,  that  the  position  of  the 
body  in  the  coffin  seemed  to  have  undergone  some  slight  change, 
and  called  attention  to  the  fact.  Suddenly,  without  any  warning, 
the  'corpse'  sat  up  in  the  coffin  and  gazed  round  the  room.  A 
physician  was  summoned,  restoratives  were  applied,  and  in  half  an 
hour  the  supposed  corpse  was  in  a  warm  bed,  sipping  weak  brandy 
and  water,  and  taking  a  lively  interest  in  the  surroundings.  Heart- 
failure  had  produced  a  species  of  syncope  resembling  death  that 
deceived  even  experts." 

The  Banner  of  LigJit,  Boston,  July  28,  1894,  quotes 
the  following  case  of  apparent  sudden  death  medically 
certified  : — 

"  Sprakers,  a  village  not  far  from  Rondout,  N.Y.,  was  treated  to 
a  sensation  Tuesday,  July  10,  by  the  supposed  resurrection  from 
the  dead  of  Miss  Eleanor  Markham,  a  young  woman  of  respect- 
ability, who  to  all  appearance  had  died  on  Sunday,  July  8. 


"  Miss  Markham  about  a  fortnight  ago  complained  of  heart 
trouble,  and  was  treated  by  Dr.  Howard.  She  grew  weaker 
gradually,  and  on  Sunday  morning  apparently  breathed  her  last, 
to  the  great  grief  of  her  relatives,  by  whom  she  was  much  beloved. 
The  doctor  pronounced  her  dead,  and  furnished  the  usual  burial 

"Undertaker  Jones  took  charge  of  the  funeral  arrangements. 
On  account  of  the  warm  weather  it  was  decided  that  the  interment 
should  take  place  Tuesday,  and  in  the  morning  Miss  Markham 
was  put  in  the  coffin. 

"After  her  relatives  had  taken  the  last  look  on  what  they  sup- 
posed was  their  beloved  dead,  the  lid  of  the  coffin  was  fastened  on, 
and  the  undertaker  and  his  assistant  took  it  to  the  hearse  waiting 
outside.  As  they  approached  the  hearse  a  noise  was  heard,  and 
the  coffin  was  put  down  and  opened  in  short  order.  Behold  !  there 
was  poor  Eleanor  Markham  lying  on  her  back,  her  face  white  and 
contorted,  and  her  eyes  distended. 

"  '  My  God  ! ;  she  cried,  in  broken  accents.  '  Where  am  I  ?  You 
are  burying  me  alive.'  '  Hush  !  child,'  said  Dr.  Howard,  who 
happened  to  be  present.  '  You  are  all  right.  It  is  a  mistake  easily 

"The  girl  was  then  taken  into  the  house  and  placed  on  the  bed, 
when  she  fainted.  While  the  doctor  was  administering  stimulating 
restoratives  the  trappings  of  woe  were  removed,  and  the  hearse 
drove  away  with  more  cheerful  rapidity  than  a  hearse  was  ever 
driven  before. 

" 1 1  was  conscious  all  the  time  you  were  making  preparations  to 
bury  me,'  she  said,  'and  the  horror  of  my  situation  is  altogether 
beyond  description.  I  could  hear  everything  that  was  going  on, 
even  a  whisper  outside  the  door,  and  although  I  exerted  all  my 
will-power,  and  made  a  supreme  physical  effort  to  cry  out,  I  was 
powerless.  ...  At  first  I  fancied  the  bearers  would  not  hear 
me,  but  when  I  felt  one  end  of  the  coffin  falling  suddenly,  I  knew 
that  I  had  been  heard.' 

"  Miss  Markham  is  on  a  fair  way  to  recovery,  and  what  is 
strange  is  that  the  flutterings  of  the  heart  that  brought  on  her 
illness  are  gone." 



In    a   letter   received    from    Mrs.    H.    E.    Wright,   of 
2  Bedford  Road,  Ilford,  Essex,  under  date  May  31,  1897, 
she  says  : — "  A  friend  of  mine  was  supposed  to  die  of 
cholera  at  Boulogne  some  years  ago.     She  heard  all  the 
preparations  being  made  for  her  funeral,  when  fortunately, 
by  a  desperate  exertion,  she  managed  to  give  signs  of 
life.     I  know  of  another  somewhat  similar  case  ;  but  the 
most  extraordinary  case  I  ever  heard  of  was  one  related 
by  an  aged  relative,  which  happened  in  a  ladies'  boarding- 
school  at  Edinburgh,  in  which  she  was  pupil.    This  must 
have  been   between   eighty  and   ninety  years  ago.      A 
young  girl   from   the  West   Indies  was   confided  in  an 
especial  manner  to  the  care  of  the  lady  principal.     One 
day  the  girl  died,  after  having  been  indisposed  for  a  few 
days.     The  best  doctors  in  Edinburgh — one  of  the  chief 
medical  schools  in  the  world — pronounced  the  girl  dead, 
and  wanted  to  have  her  buried,  but  the  principal  declared 
that  nothing  on  earth  would  induce  her  to  have  the  child 
buried    until   unmistakable  signs  of  corruption   showed 
themselves  ;  but  days  passed  and  no  signs  to  satisfy  the 
good  lady  appeared,  who  meanwhile  kept  applying  hot 
bread  to  the  soles  of  the  feet.     At  last,  after  ten  days  or 
so,  even  the  eminent  doctors  began  to  be  staggered.     At 
the  end  of  thirteen  days,  when  the  principal  went  to  her 
room  with  hot  bread,  she  found  the  girl  sitting  up  in  bed, 
rubbing  her  eyes  in  a  somewhat  bewildered  manner,  and 
expressing  a  desire  to  get  up  and  set  about  her  lessons. 
It  is  quite  possible  that  had  she  not  come  from  such  a 
distance  her  own  relations  might  have  been  called  in, 
and  the  poor  child  buried  ;  but  in  days  when  there  were 


no  steamers,  and  a  voyage  to  the  West  Indies  might 
mean  two  or  three  months,  the  schoolmistress  felt  all 
the  agony  of  letting  the  parents  know  that  their  daughter 
had  been  dead  many  weeks  before  the  information  came 
to  them.  So  she  acted  with  the  determination  of  despair, 
and  acted  wisely  and  well." 


The  Undertakers'  and  Funeral  Directors  Journal  of 
May,  1888,  narrates  an  interesting  and  apparently 
trustworthy  story  : — 

"Mrs.  Lockhart,  of  Birkhill,  who  died  in  1825,  used  to  relate  to 
her  grandchildren  the  following  anecdote  of  her  ancestor,  Sir 
William  Lindsay,  of  Covington,  towards  the  close  of  the  seventeenth 
century  : — '  Sir  William  was  a  humorist,  and  noted,  moreover, 
for  preserving  the  picturesque  appendage  of  a  beard  at  a  period 
when  the  fashion  had  long  passed  away.  He  had  been  extremely- 
ill,  and  life  was  at  last  supposed  to  be  extinct,  though,  as  it 
afterwards  turned  out,  he  was  merely  in  a  "  dead  faint "  or  trance. 
The  female  relatives  were  assembled  for  the  "  chesting  ;; — the 
act  of  putting  a  corpse  into  a  coffin,  with  the  entertainment  given 
on  such  melancholy  occasions — in  a  lighted  chamber  in  the  old 
tower  of  Covington,  where  the  "bearded  knight"  lay  stretched 
upon  his  bier.  But  when  the  servants  were  about  to  enter  to 
assist  at  the  ceremonies,  Isabella  Somerville,  Sir  William's  great- 
granddaughter,  and  Mrs.  Lockhart's  grandmother,  then  a  child, 
creeping  close  to  her  mother,  whispered  into  her  ear,  "  The  beard 
is  wagging  !  the  beard  is  wagging  ! "  Mrs.  Somerville,  upon  this, 
looked  to  the  bier,  and,  observing  indications  of  life  in  the  ancient 
knight,  made  the  company  retire,  and  Sir  William  soon  came  out 
of  his  faint.  Hot  bottles  were  applied  and  cordials  administered, 
and  in  the  course  of  the  evening  he  was  able  to  converse  with  his 
family.  They  explained  that  they  had  believed  him  to  be  actually 
dead,  and  that  arrangements  had  even  been  made  for  his  funeral. 
In  answer  to  the  question,  "Have  the  folks  been  warned?"  (i.e., 


invited  to  the  funeral)  he  was  told  that  they  had — that  the  funeral 
day  had  been  fixed,  an  ox  slain,  and  other  preparations  made  for 
entertaining  the  company.  Sir  William  then  said,  "  All  is  as  it 
should  be  ;  keep  it  a  dead  secret  that  I  am  in  life,  and  let  the 
folks  come."  His  wishes  were  complied  with,  and  the  company 
assembled  for  the  burial  at  the  appointed  time.  After  some  delay, 
occasioned  by  the  non-arrival  of  the  clergyman,  as  was  supposed, 
and  which  afforded  an  opportunity  of  discussing  the  merits  of  the 
deceased,  the  door  suddenly  opened,  when,  to  their  surprise  and 
terror,  in  stepped  the  knight  himself,  pale  in  countenance  and 
dressed  in  black,  leaning  on  the  arm  of  the  minister  of  the  parish 
of  Covington.  Having  quieted  their  alarm  and  explained  matters, 
he  called  upon  the  clergyman  to  conduct  an  act  of  devotion,  which 
included  thanksgiving  for  his  recovery  and  escape  from  being 
buried  alive.  This  done,  the  dinner  succeeded.  A  jolly  evening, 
after  the  manner  of  the  time,  was  passed,  Sir  William  himself 
presiding  over  the  carousals.' " 


The  Lancet,  November  27,  1858,  p.  561,  cites  a  re- 
markable case  which  was  afterwards  corroborated  in  all 
its  details  by  the  surgeon  who  attended  the  patient,  Mr. 
R.  B.  Mason,  M.R.C.S.,  of  Nuneaton. 

"  The  girl,  whose  name  is  Amelia  Hinks,  is  twelve  or 
thirteen  years  of  age,  and  resides  with  her  parents  in 
Bridge  Street,  Nuneaton.  She  had  lately  appeared  to 
be  sinking  under  the  influence  of  some  ill-explained 
disorder,  and  about  three  weeks  since,  as  her  friends 
imagined,  she  died.  The  body  was  removed  to  another 
room.  It  was  rigid  and  icy  cold.  It  was  washed  and 
laid  out  with  all  due  funereal  train.  The  limbs  were 
decently  placed,  the  eyelids  closed  and  penny-pieces 
laid  over  them.  The  coffin  was  ordered.  For  more 


than  forty-eight  hours  the  supposed  corpse  lay  beneath 
the  winding-sheet,  when  it  happened  that  her  grand- 
father, coming  from  Leamington  to  assist  in  the  last 
mournful  ceremonies,  went  to  see  the  corpse.  The  old 
man  removed  a  penny-piece,  and  he  thought  that  the 
corpse  winked  !  There  was  a  convulsive  movement  of 
the  lid.  This  greatly  disturbed  his  composure ;  for, 
though  he  had  heard  that  she  died  with  her  eyes  open, 
he  was  unprepared  for  this  palpebral  signal  of  her  good 
understanding  with  death.  A  surgeon  is  said  to  have 
been  summoned,  who  at  first  treated  the  matter  as  a 
delusion,  but  subsequently  ascertained  stethoscopically 
that  there  was  still  slight  cardiac  pulsation.  The  body 
was  then  removed  to  a  warm  room,  and  gradually  the 
returning  signs  of  animation  became  unequivocal.  When 
speech  was  restored,  the  girl  described  many  things 
which  had  taken  place  since  her  supposed  death.  She 
knew  who  had  closed  her  eyes  and  placed  the  coppers 
thereon.  She  also  heard  the  order  given  for  her  coffin, 
and  could  repeat  the  various  remarks  made  over  her  as 
she  lay  in  her  death-clothes.  She  refused  food,  though 
in  a  state  of  extreme  debility.  She  has  since  shown 
symptoms  of  mania,  and  is  now  said  to  have  relapsed 
into  a  semi-cataleptic  condition." 

The  Lancet,  March  5,  1859,  p.  254,  writes  further:— 

"  Another  case  of  trance  is  reported,  in  addition  to 
those  which  we  have  lately  recorded.  A  widow  named 
Aufray,  about  sixty  years  of  age,  of  St.  Agnan  de 
^enuieres  (Eure),  long  seriously  ill,  became  suddenly 
vvorse,  grew  cold  and  motionless,  and,  as  it  was  thought, 


dead.  She  was  laid  out,  the  coffin  ordered,  and  the 
church  bell  tolled.  She  recovered  consciousness  just 
before  the  funeral  was  to  take  place." 


Hufeland  (one  of  the  greatest  authorities  on  the  subject 
in  Germany),  in  his  essay  upon  the  uncertainty  of  the 
signs  of  death,  tells  of  a  case  of  the  wife  of  Professor 
Camerer,  of  Tubingen,  who  was  hysterical,  and  had  a 
fright  in  the  sixth  month  of  her  pregnancy,  that  brought 
on  convulsions  (eclampsia),  which  continued  for  four 
hours,  when  she  seemed  to  die  completely.  Two  cele- 
brated physicians,  besides  three  others  of  less  note,  re- 
garded the  case  as  ended  in  death,  as  all  the  recognised 
signs  of  death  were  present.  However,  attempts  to 
revive  her  were  at  once  resorted  to,  and  were  continued 
for  five  hours,  when  all  the  medical  attendants,  except 
one,  gave  the  case  up,  and  left.  The  physician  who 
remained  pulled  off  a  blister-plaster  that  had  been  put 
on  one  of  the  feet,  when  the  lady  gave  feeble  signs  of  life 
by  twitchings  about  the  mouth.  The  doctor  then  re- 
newed his  efforts  to  revive  her,  by  various  stimulating 
means,  and  by  burning,  and  by  pricking  the  spine ;  but 
all  in  vain,  for  after  her  slight  evidences  of  revival,  she 
seemed  to  die  unmistakably.  She  lay  in  a  state  of 
apparent  death  for  six  days,  but  there  was  a  small  space 
over  the  heart  where  a  little  warmth  could  be  detected 
by  the  hand,  and  on  this  account  the  burial  was  put  off. 
On  the  seventh  day  she  opened  her  eyes,  and  slowly 
revived,  but  was  completely  unconscious  of  all  that  had 
happened.  She  then  gave  birth  to  a  dead  child,  and 
soon  thereafter  recovered  her  health  completely. 



Dr.  Frederick  A.  Floyer,  of  Mortimer,  Berks,  published 
the  following  case  in  the  Tocsin,  November  i,  1889, 
vol.  i.,  p.  84,  under  the  head  of  "  Premature  Burial "  :— 

"  A  narrow  escape  of  this  was  recently  communicated 
direct  to  the  writer,  and  as  it  has  some  extremely  im- 
portant bearings  on  the  value  of  what  are  usually 
considered  to  be  evidences  of  death,  we  give  it  as 
told  by  the  survivor,  who  is  still  alive  in  the  form  of 
a  cheery  and  intelligent  old  lady  in  the  fullest  possession 
of  her  faculties  and  memory. 

"  Herself  the  wife  of  a  medical  officer  attached  to 

the  — th  Regiment,  she  was  stationed  at Island, 

where  at  the  age  of  twenty-eight  she  was  safely  confined. 
Shortly  after  this  she  was  walking  out  with  an  attendant 
when  she  was  taken  suddenly  ill  with  a  painful  spasm 
of  the  heart — what  appears  to  have  been  an  attack 
of  angina  pectoris — and  was  conveyed  indoors  and 
propped  up  with  pillows,  suffering  great  pain,  and 
although  medical  attendance  was  summoned,  nothing 
was  of  avail,  and  she  died — at  least  in  the  opinion  of 
those  around  her,  who  paid  the  proper  attention  to 
what  they  regarded  as  a  corpse.  It  was  the  custom 
there  to  bury  at  sundown  anyone  who  died  during 
the  day,  We  understand  that  in  warm  countries  it  is 
difficult  to  close  the  eyelids  properly,  and  so  this  lady, 
lying  motionless  and  rigid,  contemplated  with  perfectly 
clear  perception,  but  with  an  utter  indifference,  the  bring- 
ing in  of  the  coffin  and  the  necessary  preparations  for  her 
interment ;  she  remembers  her  children  coming  to  take 
a  last  look  at  her,  and  then  being  taken  down  stairs. 


"  She  would  never  have  lived  to  tell  the  story  but  for 
an  accident,  which  happened  in  this  way.  Her  nurse, 
who  was  much  attached  to  her,  was  stroking  her  face 
and  the  muscles  of  her  jaw,  and  presently  declared  she 
heard  a  sound  of  breathing.  Medical  assistance  was 
summoned,  and  the  mirror  test  applied,  but  the  surface 
was  undimmed.  Then,  to  make  sure,  they  opened  a 
vein  in  each  arm,  but  no  blood  flowed.  No  limb 
responded  to  stimulus,  and  they  declared  that  the  nurse 
was  mistaken,  and  that  the  body  was  dead  beyond 

"  But  the  nurse  persisted  in  her  belief  and  in  her 
attentions,  and  did  succeed  in  establishing  a  sign  of  life. 
Then  mustard  applications  to  her  feet  and  to  the  back 
of  her  neck,  and  burnt  feathers  applied  to  her  nostrils, 
which  she  remembered  burning  her  nose,  completed  her 
return  to  consciousness." 


The  Medical  Times,  London,  1866,  vol.  i.,  p.  258,  under 
the  heading  "  Buried  Alive,"  remarks  as  follows  : — "  The 
abundance  of  other  topics  hinders  us  at  present  from 
saying  more  than  a  few  words  on  the  conditions  under 
which  there  may  be  real  danger  of  burial  before  life  is 
quite  extinct  Now,  we  will  only  reproduce  the  cases 
reported  by  Cardinal  Archbishop  Donnet,  in  the  French 
Senate,  in  a  discussion  on  a  petition  that  the  time 
between  death  and  burial  should  be  lengthened.  We 
will  add  one  instance,  which  we  have  heard  on  the  best 
authority : — About  thirty  years  ago,  a  young  woman 
of  eighteen,  daughter  of  Madame  Laligand,  living  in 
the  Rue  des  Tonnelliers,  at  Beaune,  in  Burgundy,  was 


supposed  to  have  died.  The  ordinary  measures  were 
taken  for  interment.  The  body  was  put  in  a  coffin,  and 
taken  to  the  church;  the  funeral  service  was  said,  and  the 
cortege  set  out  for  the  cemetery  ;  but  on  the  road 
between  the  church  and  the  cemetery  the  supposed  dead 
recovered  power  of  motion  and  speech,  was  removed 
from  the  coffin,  put  to  bed,  recovered,  married,  and  lived 
eighteen  years  afterwards.  She  said  she  retained  her 
consciousness  during  the  whole  of  her  supposed  death, 
and  had  counted  the  nails  that  were  driven  into  her 
coffin.  Statements  such  as  these,  and  such  as  those 
made  by  the  Archbishop,  will  surely  be  subjected  to  the 
ordeal  of  a  French  scientific  commission,  and  wre  may 
suspend  our  judgment  for  the  present.  To  return  to  his 
Eminence.  He  said  he  had  the  very  best  reasons  for 
believing  that  the  victims  of  hasty  interments  were  more 
numerous  than  people  supposed.  He  considered  the 
rules  and  regulations  prescribed  by  the  law  very 
judicious  ;  but,  unfortunately,  they  were,  particularly  in 
the  country,  not  always  executed  as  they  should  be,  nor 
was  sufficient  importance  attached  to  them.  In  the 
village  he  was  stationed  in  as  an  assistant-curate  in  the 
first  period  of  his  sacerdotal  life,  he  saved  two  persons 
from  being  buried  alive.  The  first  an  aged  man,  who 
lived  twelve  hours  after  the  hour  prescribed  for  his 
interment  by  the  municipal  officer;  the  second  was  a  man 
who  was  quite  restored  to  life.  In  both  cases  a  trance 
more  prolonged  than  usual  was  taken  for  actual  death." 


"  The  other  instances,"  says  the  Medical  Times  cor- 
respondent, "  I  give  in  the  words  of  the  Archbishop  :— 


"'The  next  case  that  occurred  to  me  was  at  Bordeaux.  A 
young  lady,  who  bore  one  of  the  most  distinguished  names  in 
the  Department,  had  passed  through  what  was  supposed  the  last 
agony,  and,  as  apparently  all  was  over,  the  father  and  mother 
were  torn  away  from  the  heartrending  spectacle.  As  God  willed 
it,  I  happened  to  pass  the  door  of  the  house  at  the  moment, 
when  it  occurred  to  me  to  call  and  inquire  how  the  young  lady 
was  going  on.  When  I  entered  the  room,  the  nurse,  finding  the 
body  breathless,  was  in  the  act  of  covering  the  face,  and,  indeed, 
there  was  every  appearance  that  life  had  departed.  Somehow  or 
other,  it  did  not  seem  to  me  so  certain  as  to  the  bystanders.  I 
resolved  to  try.  I  raised  my  voice,  called  loudly  upon  the  young 
lady  not  to  give  up  all  hope — that  I  was  come  to  cure  her,  and 
that  I  was  about  to  pray  by  her  side.  "You  do  not  see  me,"  I 
said,  "but  you  hear  what  I  am  saying."  My  presentiments  were 
not  unfounded.  The  word  of  hope  I  uttered  reached  her  ear  and 
effected  a  marvellous  change,  or,  rather,  called  back  the  life  that 
was  departing.  The  young  girl  survived  ;  she  is  now  a  wife,  and 
mother  of  children,  and  this  day  is  the  happiness  of  two  most 
respectable  families.' 

"  The  Archbishop  mentioned  another  instance  of  a 
similar  revival  in  a  town  in  Hungary  during  the  cholera 
of  1831,  which  he  heard  that  day  from  one  of  his 
colleagues  of  the  Senate,  as  they  were  mounting  the 


The  last  incident  related  by  the  Archbishop  is  so 
interesting,  and  made  such  a  sensation,  that  it  deserves 
to  be  repeated  in  his  own  words  :— 

"'In  the  summer  of  1826,  on  a  close  summer  day,  in  a  church 
which  was  exceedingly  crowded,  a  young  priest,  who  was  in  the  act 
of  preaching,  was  suddenly  seized  with  giddiness  in  the  pulpit. 
The  words  he  was  uttering  became  indistinct ;  he  soon  lost  the 
power  of  speech,  and  sank  down  on  the  floor.  He  was  taken  out 
of  the  church  and  carried  home.  All  was  thought  to  be  over. 


Some  hours  after,  the  funeral  bell  was  tolled,  and  the  usual 
preparations  made  for  the  interment.  His  eyesight  was  gone  ;  but 
if  he  could  see  nothing,  like  the  young  lady  I  have  alluded  to,  he 
could  hear,  and  I  need  not  say  that  what  reached  his  ears  was  not 
calculated  to  reassure  him.  The  doctor  came,  examined  him, 
and  pronounced  him  dead  ;  and  after  the  usual  inquiries  as  to 
his  age  and  the  place  of  his  birth,  etc.,  gave  permission  for  his 
interment  next  morning.  The  venerable  bishop,  in  whose  cathedral 
the  young  priest  was  preaching  when  he  was  seized  with  the  fit, 
came  to  his  bedside  to  recite  the  "  De  Profundis."  The  body  was 
measured  for  the  coffin.  Night  came  on,  and  you  will  easily  feel 
how  inexpressible  was  the  anguish  of  the  human  being  in  such  a 
situation.  At  last,  amid  the  voices  murmuring  around  him,  he 
distinguished  that  of  one  whom  he  had  known  from  infancy.  That 
voice  produced  a  marvellous  effect  and  superhuman  effort.  Of 
what  followed  I  need  say  no  more  than  that  the  seemingly  dead 
man  stood  next  day  in  the  same  pulpit.  That  young  priest, 
gentlemen,  is  the  same  man  who  is  now  speaking  before  you,  and 
who,  more  than  forty  years  after  that  event,  implores  those  in 
authority,  not  merely  to  watch  vigilantly  over  the  careful  execution 
of  the  legal  prescriptions  with  regard  to  interments,  but  to  enact 
fresh  ones  in  order  to  prevent  the  recurrence  of  irreparable 
misfortunes.' " 


To  this  report  of  the  Medical* Times,  it  may  be  added 
that  the  petition  of  M.  de  Carnot  furnished  statistics 
showing  the  frequency  of  these  terrible  disasters,  and 
suggested  various  preventive  measures,  including  the 
establishment  of  mortuaries,  a  longer  interval  between 
death  and  burial,  and  the  application  of  scientific 
methods  of  restoration  where  decomposition  is  not 
manifest.  The  reality  of  the  terrible  clangers,  as  pointed 
out  by  Cardinal  Donnet,  was  confirmed  by  Senators 
Tourangin  and  Viscount  de  Baral,  in  the  recital  of  other 
cases  of  premature  interment. 


When  the  subject  was  revived  in  the  Senate  on 
January  29,  1869 — on  which  occasion  five  petitions  were 
presented,  urging  important  reforms,  and  detailing  other 
cases  of  premature  interment — Cardinal  Donnet  again 
took  part  in  the  debate,  and  urged  that  no  burial  should 
be  permitted  without  the  signature  of  a  doctor  or  officer 
of  health,  as  well  as  the  written  authorisation  of  the 
Mayor,  so  that  the  fact  of  death  might  always  be  verified. 
The  Cardinal  then  furnished  particulars  of  another  recent 
case  of  premature  interment  in  1'Est,  and  recalled  the 
fact  that  one  of  their  honourable  colleagues  of  the 
Senate,  M.  le  Comte  de  la  Rue,  had  had  a  narrow 
escape  from  live  sepulture. 

The  several  petitions  were  forwarded  to  the  Minister 
of  the  Interior,  but  nothing  was  done  to  remedy  the  evil. 


''Dr.  Brewer,"  says  the  Lancet,  of  June  2,  1866,  p. 
6ii,"in  the  course  of  the  address  delivered  to  the 
Guardians  of  St.  George's  at  St.  James's  Hall,  adverted 
to  the  'laying-out'  case  at  St.  Pancras,  and  dwelt  upon 
the  question  of  suspended  animation  in  a  passage  which 
really  deserves  to  be  quoted." 

"  I  have  been  more  than  once  under  a  condition  of  apparently 
suspended  respiration,  and  with  circumstances  less  comfortable 
than  those  related  of  this  babe  ;  and  yet,  active  as  is  my  brain, 
and  sensitive  as  is  my  body,  I  remember  as  well  as  though  it  were 
but  yesterday  that,  on  being  restored  to  consciousness,  no  feeling 
of  discomfort  of  any  kind  attended  my  experience  on  either  occasion. 
It  is  under  the  truth  to  say  I  have  known  a  score  of  cases  of  those 
who  have  been  supposed  dead  being  reanimated.  It  is  not  many 
months  ago  a  friend  of  mine,  a  rector  of  a  suburban  parish,  was 
pronounced  by  his  medical  attendant  to  be  dead.  His  bed  was 


arranged,  and  the  room  left  in  its  silence.  His  daughter  had 
re-entered  and  sat  at  the  foot,  and  the  solemn  toll  of  his  own 
church  bell  was  vibrating  through  the  chamber,  when  a  hand  drew 
aside  the  closed  curtain,  and  a  voice  came  from  the  occupant  of 
the  bed — 'Elizabeth,  my  dear,  what  is  that  bell  tolling  for?' 
The  daughters  response  was,  perhaps,  an  unfortunate  one  :  '  For 
you,  Papa.'r' 

Dr.  13.  \V.  Richardson  quotes  a  case  in  the  Lancet, 
1888,  vol.  ii.,  p.  1179,  of  a  man  who,  in  1869,  was 
rendered  cataleptic  by  a  lightning  -  stroke,  and  who 
narrowly  escaped  living  burial. 

Dr.  Franz  Hartmann,  in  "Premature  Burial,"  pp.  14-17, 
cites  a  remarkable  case  of  an  Englishman  who  "  died  " 


of  typhoid  fever  and  was  buried,  but  four  days  after  was 
exhumed  and  placed  on  the  cold  slab  of  the  dissecting 
room  ;  when  an  incision  was  made  in  the  breast,  the 
(i  dead  man  "  suddenly  awoke,  and  grasped  the  wrist  of 
the  anatomist.  The  Englishman  subsequently  published 
in  Blackivood's  Magazine  an  account  of  his  terrible 

Dr.  H.  S.  Tanner,  in  a  letter  in  the  New  York  Times, 
January  18,  1880,  mentions  two  cases  where  persons 
awakened  from  trance  at  the  moment  of  sepulture 
described  in  turn  what  their  feelings  had  been.  Said 
one  :— 

"  Have  you  ever  felt  the  paralysing  influence  of  a  horrible 
nightmare?  If  you  have  had  such  experience,  then  you  are 
prepared  to  conceive  of  the  mental  agonies  I  endured  when 
I  realised  that  my  friends  believed  me  dead,  and  were  making 
preparations  for  my  burial.  The  hours  and  days  of  mental 
struggle  spent  in  the  vain  endeavour  to  break  loose  from  the 
vice-like  grasp  of  this  worse  than  horrible  nightmare  was  a  hell 
of  torment  such  as  no  tongue  can  describe  or  pen  portray." 


Dr.  Johnson,  of  St.  Charles,  Illinois,  is  the  other 
instance  mentioned  by  Dr.  Tanner,  who  in  his  hearing, 
and  in  the  presence  of  a  large  audience  in  Harrison's 
Hall,  Minneapolis,  stated  that  when  a  young  man  he 
was  prostrated  with  a  fever.  He  swooned  away, 
apparently  dead.  His  attending  physician  said  he  was 
dead.  His  father  was  faithless  and  unbelieving,  and 
refused  to  bury  him.  He  lay  in  this  condition,  appar- 
ently dead,  fourteen  days.  The  attending  physician 
brought  other  physicians  to  examine  the  apparently 
lifeless  form,  and  all  stated  unqualifiedly,  "  He  is  dead." 
Some  fourteen  physicians,  among  them  many  eminent 
professors,  examined  the  body,  and  there  was  no 
ambiguity  in  the  expression  of  their  conclusion  that 
the  boy  was  dead.  But  the  father  still  turned  a  cleaf 
ear  to  all  entreaties  to  prepare  the  body  for  the  grave. 
Public  feeling  was  at  last  aroused.  The  health  officer 
and  other  city  officers,  acting  in  their  official  capacity, 
and  by  the  advice  of  physicians,  peremptorily  demanded 
that  the  body  be  interred  without  delay.  On  the 
fourteenth  day  the  father  yielded  under  protest ;  pre- 
parations were  made  for  the  funeral,  when  the  emotions 
of  the  still  living  subject,  who  was  conscious  of  all 
transpiring  around  him,  were  so  intense  as  to  be  the 
means  of  his  deliverance.  He  awoke  from  his  trance. 

Dr.  O'Neill,  of  Lincoln,  writes  to  the  Lancet,  June  /, 
1884,  p.  1058  :— 

"  Without  venturing  to  express  an  opinion  on  the  case 
mentioned  by  the  Rev.  D.  Williams1  in  the  Lancet  of 
the  24th  inst,  I  would  beg  to  say  that  I  have  no  doubt 

J  The  case  referred  to,  being  attended  with  doubt,  is  omitted. 


in  my  own  mind  but  that  people  are  sometimes  '  buried 
alive.'  An  instance  has  come  to  my  knowledge  where 
this  catastrophe  was  only  avoided  by  a  mere  accident. 
A  lady,  about  forty-five  years  of  age,  the  wife  of  a 
clergyman  in  a  northern  county,  wras  taken  ill,  and  after 
some  time,  as  was  supposed,  died.  The  funeral  was 
delayed,  and  so  was  the  closing  of  the  coffin,  in  con- 
sequence of  the  absence  of  a  son  of  the  lady  from  home. 
When  the  boy  arrived,  the  kissing,  wailing,  and  com- 
motion roused  the  supposed  dead  woman,  and  brought 
her  to  consciousness  in  her  coffin.  This  lady  would 
most  probably  have  been  buried  alive  were  it  not  that 
the  obsequies  were  delayed  on  account  of  the  circum- 
stance mentioned. 

"  Now,  may  not  cases  more  or  less  similar  to  this 
sometimes  occur,  with  the  catastrophe  of  '  buried  alive  ' 
added  to  them?  But  no  such  case  could  happen  if  it 
were  made  compulsory  that  the  interment  of  a  body 
should  not  be  allowed  to  take  place  until  after  de- 
composition had  set  in,  as  attested  by  a  medical  man." 

Dr.  Moore  Russell  Fletcher  in  "  Suspended  Animation 
and  the  Danger  of  Burying  Alive,"  p.  62,  writes  : — 

'' '  Seven  hours  in  a  coffin  added  ten  years  to  my  life/ 
was  the  remark  of  Martin  Strong,  of  Twelfth  Street, 
Philadelphia,  some  time  after  quitting  the  coffin  in 
which  his  family  had  placed  him  for  burial,  after  Dr. 
Cummings  had  given  a  certificate  of  his  death.  Frank 
Stoop,  of  Clarinda,  Iowa,  was  laid  out  for  burial  not 
long  since,  a  physician  having  certified  to  his  death  ; 
but  fortunately  he  awoke  from  his  state  of  coma  in  time 
to  save  his  life." 


On  p.  26,  Dr.  Fletcher  cites  another  remarkable  case:— 

"In  June,  1869,  a  girl  in  Cleveland,  Ohio,  was  taken  ill,  and 
after  a  short  sickness  died,  and  was  laid  out  for  burial  ;  but  as 
her  mother  insisted  that  she  was  not  dead,  efforts  were  made  for 
some  time  to  restore  her  to  life,  but  in  vain.  Her  mother,  how- 
ever, refused  to  let  her  be  buried  ;  and  on  the  fifth  day  after  that 
set  for  the  funeral  the  slamming  of  a  door  aroused  her,  so  that 
she  recovered.  She  stated  that,  during  most  of  the  eight  days 
which  she  lay  there,  she  was  conscious,  and  heard  what  was  said, 
although  wholly  unable  to  make  the  least  motion." 

Dr.  Colin  S.  Valentine,  LL.D.,  Principal  of  the  Medical 
Missionary  Training  College,  Agra,  N.W.P.,  told  the 
author  during  his  visit  to  Agra,  February,  1896,  that 
Captain  Young,  an  officer  in  the  regiment  of  which  he 
(Dr.  Valentine)  was  at  that  time  army  surgeon,  who  had 
been  dreadfully  mauled  while  tiger-hunting  in  Madras, 
was  laid  out  for  dead,  and  all  the  arrangements  were  made 
for  his  funeral  at  six  o'clock  that  evening,  when  con- 
sciousness returned,  and  he  lived  for  twenty  years  after. 

Dr.  A.  Stephenson,  in  a  lecture  on  the  "Signs  of  Death 
and  Disposal  of  the  Dead,"  delivered  at  Nottingham, 
January  9,  1896,  said  he  once  attended  a  girl  living  in 
that  locality  who  was  in  a  trance.  All  the  preparations 
were  made  for  her  funeral,  and  the  grave  ordered.  She 
remained  in  a  trance  three  days,  and  her  mother  was 
annoyed  because  he  would  not  sign  her  death-certificate. 
On  the  third  day  she  slowly  rose  and  recovered.  The 
girl  would  have  been  buried  unless  he  had  had  a  very 
great  fear  of  her  being  buried  alive. 

Medical    literature     contains     reports    of    numerous 
instances  of  collapse  and   apparent  death  in  times  of 


epidemics,  such  as  plague,  cholera,  and  small-pox.  The 
danger  is  increased  by  the  anxiety  and  necessity  for 
speed}"  interment,  owing  to  the  usually  overcrowded 
condition  of  hospitals  and  mortuaries  and  the  fear  of  the 
spread  of  infection.  Premature  burial  becomes  a  real 
danger,  and  the  cases  of  narrow  escape  during  these 
periods  of  panic  are  innumerable. 

A  solicitor,  living  in  Gloucester,  recently  informed  the 
editor  that,  when  first  in  practice,  he  had  as  caretaker 
of  his  offices  an  old  woman  who,  with  her  husband,  had 
been  in  charge  of  the  cholera  wards,  erected  just  outside 
the  city,  at  the  time  of  the  severe  epidemic  of  1849,  when, 
in  Gloucester  alone,  there  were  119  fatal  cases.  She 
told  him  that  as  soon  as  the  patients  were  dead  they 
put  them  in  shells  and  screwed  them  down,  so  as  to  get 
them  out  of  the  way  as  quickly  as  possible,  as  the  small 
sheds  (which  are  still  standing)  were  so  crowded.  "Some- 
times," she  callously  remarked,  "they  come  to  afterwards, 
and  we  did  hear  'em  kicking  in  their  coffins,  but  we 
never  unscrewed  'em,  'cause  we  knew  they'd  got  to  die  !  " 


Dr.  Chew  communicated  the  two  following  cases  to 
the  author  during  his  sojourn  in  Calcutta  in  the  early  part 
of  1896:— 

"  In  March,  1877,  Assistant-Surgeons  H.  A.  Borthwick, 
S.  Blake,  H.  B.  Rogers,  and  myself  received  orders  to 
proceed  from  Rawal  Pindi  by  bullock-train  to  Peshawur 
to  join  the  various  regiments  we  were  to  be  posted  to 
for  duty,  We  had  just  passed  a  place  called  Rati  when 
Borthwick  showed  strong  symptoms  of  cholera,  from 


which  he  suffered  all  that  night.  The  nearest  hospital 
was  twenty-five  miles  behind  us,  and  though  we  had 
neither  medicines  nor  sick-room  comforts  with  us,  we 
had  no  alternative  but  to  journey  onwards,  because  the 
train-drivers  (Indians)  refused  to  turn  back,  and  if  we 
did  return  to  Rawal  Pindi  we  would  have  been  court- 
martialled  for  disobeying  lawful  commands  and  coming 
back  without  orders  to  do  so.  Travelling  by  bullock- 
train  is  very  slow  work,  and  far  from  a  comfortable 
mode  of  transit ;  however,  we  were  obliged  to  make  the 
best  of  it,  and  early  next  morning  Borthwick  was  cold, 
stiff,  and  seemingly  dead.  Here  was  a  fine  state  of  affairs 
— the  nearest  cantonment,  which  we  had  no  expectation 
of  reaching  (i.e.,  Nowshera)  before  nine  p.m.,  was  thirty- 
six  miles  off,  and  by  the  time  we  arrived  at  it,  it  would 
have  been  too  late  to  approach  the  authorities,  while 
Peshawur,  our  destination,  was  another  twenty-nine  miles 
further  off.  Dispose  of  the  body  we  dare  not,  and  we 
had  no  choice  but  to  continue  our  route.  All  that  day 
there  was  not  a  movement  or  other  sign  to  show  that  life 
was  not  extinct,  and  affairs  seemed  no  better  by  five  p.m. 
next  day,  when  we  reached  Peshawur.  The  apparent 
corpse  was  lifted  out  of  the  bullock-train  and  carried 
into  the  hospital  dispensary  (where  a  strong  fire  was 
blazing)  preparatory  to  papers  being  signed  and  arrange- 
ments made  for  its  final  disposal.  Whether  it  was  the 
heat  of  the  fire  before  which  he  was  placed,  or  whether 
the  vibriones  had  produced  an  antitoxin,  I  am  not  pre- 
pared to  argue  ;  but  we  do  know  that  Borthwick  recovered 
consciousness  while  lying  on  the  bed  in  that  dispensary, 
and  that  he  whom  we  mourned  as  dead  returned  to  life. 
He  served  in  the  same  military  stations  with  me  in  the 


North- West  Frontier  till  1880,  when  he  accompanied 
me  to  the  Calcutta  Medical  College,  where  we  parted 
company  in  February,  1882,  I  bound  for  Egypt  and  he 
for  frontier  duty.  At  first  we  corresponded  regularly, 
but  since  1885  we  have  lost  touch  of  each  other." 

"  When  the  East  Norfolk  regiment  was  out  cholera- 
dodging  in  1878,  Colour-Sergeant  T.  Hall  and  Corporal 
\V.  Bellomy  were  sent  into  cantonments  for  burial  as 
cholera  corpses  in  the  Nowshera  Cemetery.  There  was 
some  delay  in  the  interment  owing  to  a  difficulty  in 
obtaining  the  wood  necessary  for  their  coffins,  so  both 
bodies  were  placed  in  the  dead-house,  which  was  gener- 
ously sprinkled  with  disinfectants  to  ward  off  the  risk 
of  contagion.  First  Hall  and  then  Bellomy  regained 
consciousness,  and  were  duly  returned  to  duty.  The 
following  year  Bellomy  was  '  invalided '  to  England, 
where  I  understand  he  now  enjoys  the  best  of  health." 

The  Undertakers'  Journal^  May  22,  1895,  has  the 
following  :  — 

"  The  Reverend  Harry  Jones,  in  his  reminiscences,  and  as  a 
London  clergyman,  declares  his  conviction  that  in  times  of  panic 
from  fatal  epidemics  it  is  not  unlikely  that  some  people  are  buried 
alive.  Mr.  Jones  recalls  a  case  within  his  knowledge  of  a  young 
woman  pronounced  to  be  dead  from  cholera,  and  actually  laid  out 
for  the  usual  collecting  cart  to  call  from  the  undertakers,  when  a 
neighbour  happened  to  come  in  and  lament  over  her.  The  story 
continues  thus:  'And  is  poor  Sarah  really  dead?'  she  cried. 
'Well,'  said  her  mother,  'she  is,  and  she  will  soon  be  fetched  away  ; 
but  if  you  can  do  anything  you  may  do  it.'  Acting  on  this  per- 
mission, the  practical  neighbour  set  about  rubbing  Sarah  profusely 
with  mustard.  Sarah  sat  up,  stung  into  renovated  life,  and  so  far 
recovered  as  to  marry;  'and  I  myself,'  says  Mr.  Jones,  'christened 
four  or  five  of  her  children  in  the  course  of  the  next  few  years.' " 



I  remember  an  incident  under  this  head  I  was  able  to 
verify,  which  caused  some  sensation  at  the  time,  occur- 
ring during  the  Gloucester  small-pox  epidemic,  in  the 
early  part  of  1896.  A  child,  believed  to  be  dead  of  con- 
fluent small-pox,  was  removed  from  one  of  the  small- 
pox hospital  wards  to  the  mortuary,  and  next  day  an 
attendant  passing  by  heard  a  child  crying,  and  gave 
warning  to  one  of  the  nurses.  The  little  one  was 
promptly  carried  back  to  the  ward,  and  recovered. 

The  Lancet  of  June  21,  1884,  p.  1150,  publishes  the 
following  particulars  from  a  London  clergyman  : — 

"  I  send  you  privately  names  and  addresses,  by  means  of  which 
you  can  test,  if  you  please,  the  accuracy  of  the  following  statements, 
which  I  forward  for  insertion  in  your  journal  : — 

"Some  years  since,  a  young  man  who  had  been  attacked  by 
small-pox  was  declared  by  the  medical  man  to  be  dead,  and  was 
laid  out  for  burial.  The  nurse,  however,  on  paying  a  visit  to  the 
supposed  corpse,  thinking  there  was  something  uncorpse-like  about 
its  appearance,  put  a  wine-glass  over  the  mouth,  and  returning  in  a 
quarter  of  an  hour  found  it  dimmed  with  breath.  He  was  resusci- 
tated, and,  so  far  as  I  am  aware,  is  still  living.  He  would  now  be 
about  forty-five.  He  is  a  farmer. 

"A  mother  and  her  baby  were  ill  of  small-pox,  and  seemed 
likely  to  die.  The  grandmother,  however,  made  the  nurse  promise 
that  if  death  appeared  to  ensue,  and  even  if  the  medical  man 
pronounced  either  or  both  to  be  dead,  she  would  put  additional 
blankets  on  the  one  or  both,  and  leave  them  so  till  her  (the  grand- 
mother's) return,  which  would  not  be  till  the  next  day.  They  both 
appeared  to  die,  and  were  declared  dead  by  the  doctor ;  but  the 
nurse  did  as  she  had  promised,  and  the  next  day,  when  the  grand- 
mother returned,  they  were  both  alive,  and  were  both  living  not 
very  long  since. 


"Some  twenty  years  ago,  I  was  told  that  about  forty  years 
previously  a  young  man,  in  a  parish  where  I  was  acquainted,  was 
put  in  a  coffin  as  a  person  dead  of  small-pox  ;  but  when  the  bell 
was  tolling  for  his  funeral,  and  he  was  about  to  be  'screwed  down,' 
he  got  up  and  vacated  the  coffin,  and  lived  several  years  after- 

"The  haste  with  which  small-pox  corpses  are  disposed  of  now-a- 
days  is  to  be  deprecated.  The  only  sure  proof  of  death  is  decom- 
position, and  a  law  ought  to  be  passed  forbidding  burial  until  signs 
of  it  have  appeared.  Not  very  long  since  I  was  in  a  churchyard 
where  a  drain  was  being  made  round  the  church,  and  was  not  a 
little  struck  with  the  horrified  look  of  a  labourer  who  came  to  the 
vicar  and  stated  that  they  had  come  on  a  skull  face  downward, 
which,  he  said,  put  it  beyond  doubt  that  the  person  it  had  belonged 
to  had  turned  in  his  coffin  after  burial." 


The  Lancet  for  July  23,  1888,  cites  the  following 
remarkable  case  : — 

"  The  following  details  are  given  by  the  Cincinnati  correspondent 
of  the  New  York  Herald  from  Memphis,  Tennessee  : — Mrs.  Dicie 
Webb  keeps  a  grocery  store  on  Beale  Street,  and  is  well  known 
to  hundreds.  Two  years  ago  John  Webb,  a  son  of  Mrs.  Webb, 
married  Sarah  Kelly,  a  pretty  girl,  to  whom  the  mother-in-law 
became  greatly  attached.  Before  one  year  of  their  married  life 
had  passed,  Mrs.  Webb,  jun.,  was  stricken  with  consumption, 
and  on  several  occasions  came  near  dying.  About  a  month  ago 
the  young  woman  became  very  anxious  to  visit  her  parents  in 
Henderson  County,  and  she  was  taken  there.  At  first  she  appeared 
much  improved,  and  hopes  were  felt  that  her  life  might  be  pre- 
served through  the  summer,  but  two  weeks  ago  last  Tuesday  a 
telegram  announced  her  death,  and  the  husband  hurried  to  her 
parents'  home.  Three  days  later  he  returned  with  the  corpse. 
The  mother-in-law  pleaded  so  hard  for  a  sight  of  the  dead  woman 
that  finally,  despite  the  belief  that  the  body  was  badly  decomposed, 
it  was  decided  to  open  the  coffin.  While  looking  at  the  placid  face, 


Mrs.  Webb  was  terrified  at  beholding  the  eyelids  of  the  dead 
woman  slowly  opening.  The  eyes  did  not  have  the  stony  stare  of 
death,  nor  the  intelligent  gleam  of  life.  Mrs.  Webb  was  unable  to 
utter  a  sound.  She  could  not  move,  but  stood  gazing  at  the  grue- 
some sight.  Her  horror  was  increased  when  the  supposed  corpse 
slowly  sat  upright,  and,  in  an  almost  inaudible  voice,  said,  'Oh, 
where  am  I?'  At  this  the  weeping  woman  screamed.  Friends 
who  rushed  into  the  room  were  almost  paralysed  at  the  sight,  and 
fled  shrieking.  But  one  bolder  than  the  others  returned  and  spoke 
to  the  woman,  who  asked  to  be  laid  on  the  bed.  Hastily  she  was 
taken  from  the  coffin  and  cared  for.  In  the  course  of  the  day  the 
resurrected  woman  fully  regained  her  mental  powers.  The  day 
following  she  related  a  wonderful  story.  She  said  she  was 
cognisant  of  all  that  occurred,  and  did  not  lose  consciousness 
until  she  was  put  aboard  the  train  for  Memphis.  Soon  after  being 
placed  in  her  mother-in-law's  house  she  came  to  her  senses  and 
knew  all  that  was  passing.  While  her  mother-in-law  was  looking 
at  her  she  made  a  supreme  effort  to  speak.  Mrs.  Webb  lived  a 
number  of  days,  when  she  again  apparently  died.  The  doctors 
pronounced  her  dead,  and  she  was  once  more  placed  in  the  coffin. 
While  the  mother-in-law  was  taking  her  final  farewell  she  heard  a 
voice  whisper,  '  Mother,  don't  cry.'  Looking  into  the  girl's  face, 
she  saw  the  same  look  that  she  had  noticed  before.  She  called  for 
help,  and  several  women  responded.  Some  one  cried,  '  Shake  her  ; 
she's  not  dead.'  In  the  excitement  of  the  moment,  the  women,  it 
is  thought,  shook  the  life  out  of  the  poor  consumptive,  and  last 
Saturday  she  was  buried.  The  family  and  friends  have  endeavoured 
to  keep  the  matter  quiet." 

From  the  Echo,  London,  May  13,  1893. 

"  A  woman  at  Limoges  has  just  had  a  narrow  escape  of  being 
buried  alive  here.  She  was  subject  to  epileptic  fits,  and  during 
one  of  these  a  few  days  ago  was  pronounced  to  be  dead.  The 
arrangements  for  interment  were  made  in  due  course,  and  as 
the  coffin  was  being  borne  into  the  church  some  of  the  mourners 
said  they  heard  a  knocking  inside.  The  party  listened,  and 
distinct  taps  were  heard.  No  time  was  lost  in  wrenching  off 


the  lid  of  the  coffin.  It  was  then  found  that  the  woman  was 
alive  and  conscious,  although  terribly  frightened  at  the  awful 
ordeal  through  which  she  had  passed.  A  doctor  was  quickly 
in  attendance,  and  under  his  direction  the  supposed  corpse 
was  removed  from  the  coffin  and  placed  on  a  litter  for  con- 
veyance home  again." 


Dr.  R.  G.  S.  Chew,  of  Calcutta,  writing  to  the 
author,  says: — "In  1873  I  was  a  student  in  the 
Bishop's  High  School,  Poonah  (Bombay  Presidency), 
where  I  used  to  be  generally  at  the  head  of  my 
class,  and  when  competing  for  the  Science  Prizes  I 
was  fully  determined  to  take  the  first  prize  or  none. 
The  Reverend  Mr.  Watson,  Rector  of  St.  Mary's 
Church  and  Chaplain  to  our  school,  knew  my  dis- 
position, and  cautioned  me  against  being  too  sanguine, 
lest  disappointment  might  tell  very  keenly.  The  disap- 
pointment came,  and  with  it  much  nervous  excitability. 
Shortly  after  this  (Christmas,  1873)  my  favourite  sister 
was  seized  with  convulsions  that  carried  her  off.  From 
the  moment  of  her  decease  to  nearly  a  month  after  her 
interment  I  entirely  lost  the  power  of  speech.  On  the 
day  of  the  funeral  I  was  parched  with  thirst,  but  could 
not  drink,  as  the  water  seemed  to  choke  me.  My  eyes 
were  burning  and  my  head  felt  like  bursting,  but  I 
could  neither  sob  nor  cry.  I  felt  quite  dazed,  and 
followed  the  procession  to  the  cemetery,  where  I  stood 
motionless  by  the  open  grave ;  but  as  soon  as  they 
lowered  the  little  coffin  into  its  resting-place  I  threw 
myself  headlong  into  the  grave  and  fainted  away. 
Some  one  pulled  me  out  and  carried  me  home,  where  I 


lay  in  a  sort  of  stupor  for  nine  days,  during  which  Dr. 
Donaldson  attended  me  most  patiently,  and  I  regained 
consciousness,  but  was  too  weak  to  even  sit  up  in  bed. 
On  the  1 6th  January,  1874,  I  felt  a  peculiar  sensation  as 
of  something  filling  up  my  throat — no  swelling,  no  pain 
nor  anything  that  pointed  to  throat  affection — and 
this  getting  worse  and  worse,  in  spite  of  everything, 
1  died,  as  was  supposed,  on  the  i8th  of  January,  1874, 
and  was  laid  out  for  burial,  as  the  most  careful  examina- 
tion failed  to  show  the  slightest  traces  of  life.  I  had 
been  in  this  state  for  twenty  hours,  and  in  another  three 
hours  would  have  been  closed  up  for  ever,  when  my 
eldest  sister,  who  was  leaning  over  the  head  of  my  coffin 
crying  over  me,  declared  she  saw  my  lips  move.  The 
friends  who  had  come  to  take  their  last  look  at  me 
tried  to  persuade  her  it  was  only  fancy,  but  as  she  per- 
sisted, Dr.  Donaldson  was  sent  for  to  convince  her  that 
I  was  really  dead.  For  some  unexplained  reason,  he 
had  me  taken  out  of  the  coffin  and  examined  very 
carefully  from  head  to  foot.  Noticing  a  peculiar,  soft, 
fluctuating  swelling  at  the  base  of  my  neck,  just  where 
the  clavicles  meet  the  sternum,  he  went  to  his  brougham, 
came  back  with  his  case  of  instruments,  and,  before  any 
one  could  stop  him  or  ask  what  he  was  going  to  do, 
laid  open  the  tumour  and  plunged  in  a  tracheotomy 
tube,  when  a  quantity  of  pus  escaped,  and,  releasing  the 
pressure  on  the  carotids  and  thyroid,  was  followed  by  a 
rush  of  blood  and  some  movement  on  my  part  that 
startled  the  doctor.  Restoratives  were  used,  and  I  was 
slowly  nursed  back  to  life  ;  but  the  tracheotomy  tube 
(I  still  carry  the  scar)  was  not  finally  removed  till 
September,  1875." 



A  lady,  distinguished  alike  for  her  literary  gifts  as 
well  as  for  her  philanthropy,  sends  me  the  following : — 

"  I  am  much  obliged  to  you  for  sending  me  '  Perils/ 
It  is  a  terrible  subject,  and  one  that  has  haunted  me  all 
my  life,  insomuch  that  I  have  never  made  a  will  without 
inserting  a  clause  requiring  my  throat  to  be  cut  before 
I  am  put  underground.  Of  course,  one  can  have  no 
reliance  on  doctors  whatever,  and  I  have  myself  known 
a  case  in  which  a  very  eminent  one  insisted  on  a  coffin 
being  screwed  down  because  the  corpse  looked  so  life- 
like and  full  of  colour  that  the  friends  could  not  help 
indulging  in  hopes. 

"  My  great-grandmother,  after  whom  I  am  called,  a 
famous  heiress,  was  a  notable  case  of  narrow  escape.  As 
a  girl  she  passed  into  a  state  of  apparent  death,  and  a 
great  funeral  was  ordered  for  her.  Among  the  guests 
came  a  young  girl  friend,  who  insisted  that  she  was  not 
dead,  and  raised  such  a  stir  that  the  funeral  was  post- 
poned, and  time  was  allowed  to  pass  till  the  marvel 
became  that  there  were  no  signs  of  change.  I  could 
never  ascertain  how  long  this  comatose  state  lasted  before 
she  recovered  ;  but  she  did  recover,  so  thoroughly  that 
after  her  marriage  with  Richard  Trench,  of  Garbuly,  she 
became  the  mother  of  twenty-two  children.  Obviously 
this  was  no  case  of  a  feeble,  hysterical,  cataleptic  subject. 
I  will  enclose  photograph  taken  from  a  miniature  of  her 
in  a  ring  in  my  possession. 

"There  was  another  case,  well  known  in  Ireland  in 
my  youth,  of  a  Colonel  Howard,  who  had  a  fine  place 
(I  think  it  was  called  Castle  Howard)  in  Wicklow.  He 
was  supposed  to  be  dead,  and  a  lead  coffin  was  actually 


made  with  his  name  and  date  of  death  on  it;  after  which 
Colonel  Howard  came  to  life,  and  had  the  plate  of  the 
coffin  fixed  over  his  kitchen  chimney  as  a  warning  to 
his  servants  not  to  bury  people  in  a  hurry." 


From  the  London  Echo,  March  3,  1896. 

"A  letter  from  Constantinople,  in  the  Politische  Korrespondenz, 
gives  a  remarkable  case  of  an  apparent  death  which  would  have 
ended  in  a  premature  burial  but  for  the  high  ecclesiastical  position 
of  the  person  concerned.  On  the  3rd  of  this  month,  Nicephorus 
Glycas,  the  Greek-Orthodox  Metropolitan  of  Lesbos,  an  old  man 
in  his  eightieth  year,  after  several  days  of  confinement  to  his  bed, 
was  reported  by  the  physician  to  be  dead.  The  supposed  dead 
bishop,  in  accordance  with  the  rules  of  the  Orthodox  Church,  was 
immediately  clothed  in  his  episcopal  vestments,  and  placed  upon 
the  Metropolitan's  throne  in  the  great  church  of  Methymni,  where 
the  body  was  exposed  to  the  devout  faithful  during  the  day,  and 
watched  by  relays  of  priests  day  and  night.  Crowds  streamed 
into  the  church  to  take  a  last  look  at  their  venerable  chief  pastor. 
On  the  second  night  of  "the  exposition  of  the  corpse,"  the  Metro- 
politan suddenly  started  up  from  his  seat  and  stared  round  him 
with  amazement  and  horror  at  all  the  panoply  of  death  amidst 
which  he  had  been  seated.  The  priests  were  not  less  horrified 
when  the  'dead'  bishop  demanded  what  they  were  doing  with 
him.  The  old  man  had  simply  fallen  into  a  death-like  lethargy, 
which  the  incompetent  doctors  had  hastily  concluded  to  be  death. 
He  is  now  as  hale  and  hearty  as  can  well  be  expected  from  an 
octogenarian.  But  here  it  is  that  the  moral  comes  in.  If 
Nicephorus  Glycas  had  been  a  layman  he  would  most  certainly 
have  been  buried  alive.  Fortunately  for  him,  the  Canon  Law  of 
the  Orthodox  Church  does  not  allow  a  bishop  to  be  buried  earlier 
than  the  third  day  after  his  death  ;  whereas  a  layman,  according 
to  the  ancient  Eastern  custom,  is  generally  buried  about  twelve 
hours  after  death  has  been  certified.  The  excitement  which  has 
been  aroused  by  the  prelate's  startling  resurrection  may  tend  to 


set  men  thinking  more  seriously  about  the  frequent  probability  of 
the  cruel  horror  of  the  interment  of  living  persons." 

The  above-mentioned  facts  have  been  authenticated 
for  the  author  by  Dr.  Franz  Hartmann,  of  Hallein, 

Speaking  on  the  subject  of  premature  burial  the  other 
day,  a  well-known  London  publisher  told  the  author  that 
he  personally  knew  a  lady,  the  daughter  of  a  British 
Consul,  who  had  been  taken  for  dead  on  two  separate 
occasions.  On  the  first  occasion  the  lady  had  been 
placed  in  her  coffin,  and  the  lid  screwed  down  ready  for 
interment.  A  friend  who  had  known  the  supposed 
deceased  called  to  condole  with  the  family,  and  said — 

"  I  should  like  to  have  a  last  look  at  dear  L ,  if  you 

will  only  permit  me."  The  lid  was  accordingly  removed, 
and  the  visitor  detected,  as  it  seemed  to  her,  signs  of  life 
in  her  friend  ;  she  was  taken  out  of  her  coffin,  put  in  a 
warm  bath,  and  recovered.  Some  years  later  the  same 
lady  fell  into  a  cataleptic  state  after  a  fever,  and  was  taken 
for  dead.  Preparations  had  been  made  for  the  funeral 
in  both  instances,  but  delayed  beyond  the  usual  time  for 
interment.  She  returned  to  consciousness,  and  is  now 

Equally  remarkable  is  a  case  quoted  by  the  British 
Medical  Journal,  March  12,  1892,  p.  577. 

"The  Temps  publishes  a  case  of  premature  burial  prevented  by 
the  daughter  of  the  supposed  dead  man,  who,  on  kissing  her  father, 
perceived  that  his  body  was  not  cold.  The  funeral  cortege  was 
on  the  point  of  starting.  Suitable  measures  restored  the  man  to 
consciousness,  and  he  opened  his  eyes  and  uttered  one  or  two 
words.  His  condition  is  serious,  but  he  is  alive.  This  incident 
occurred  at  Vagueray,  near  Lyons." 

AT  THE   LAST   MOMENT.  129 


The  Daily  Telegraph,  January  26,  1889,  reports  : — 

"A  Rochester  correspondent  telegraphs  that  a  woman  named 
Girvin,  living  at  Burham,  near  Rochester,  has  just  had  a  narrow 
escape  of  being  buried  alive.  She  fell  into  a  kind  of  trance,  which 
was  mistaken  for  death.  The  coffin  was  ordered,  and  the  usual 
preparations  made  for  a  funeral.  But  while  a  number  of  the 
relatives  were  gathered  at  the  bedside  bewailing  their  bereave- 
ment, the  supposed  corpse  startled  them  by  suddenly  rising  up  in 
bed  and  asking  what  was  the  matter.  The  woman  is  making 
good  progress  towards  convalescence." 

And  on  July  6,  1889,  the  same  journal  says  : — 

"  Our  St.  Leonards  correspondent  telegraphs  : — About  a  week 
ago  the  wife  of  a  well-known  tradesman  in  St.  Leonards  fell  ill, 
and  on  Monday  night  last  the  doctor  gave  his  -opinion  that  she 
could  not  live  through  the  next  day.  On  Tuesday  morning  at  ten 
o'clock  the  doctor  pronounced  his  patient  dead,  the  nurse  who  was 
in  attendance  confirming  the  opinion.  The  intimation  of  death 
naturally  created  great  distress  among  the  friends  of  the  woman, 
who  was  laid  out  in  grave-clothes,  washed,  and  prepared  for  burial, 
and,  being  a  Roman  Catholic,  a  crucifix  was  placed  in  her  hand  as 
she  lay  on  her  bier.  When  it  was  announced  that  the  woman  was 
dying,  a  priest  was  sent  for ;  but  he  could  not  attend,  as  he  was 
out  of  the  town  at  the  time. 

"  About  a  quarter  to  ten  on  Tuesday  night  the  nurse  entered  the 
room  without  a  light  for  the.  purpose  of  getting  something  which 
she  knew  where  to  find.  Whilst  in  the  darkened  chamber  she  was 
startled  to  hear  a  slight  cry  proceeding  from  the  bed  where  the 
body  lay,  and  she  rushed  from  the  room  in  a  terrible  fright.  The 
widower,  hearing  the  scream  of  fright,  rushed  into  the  chamber 
with  a  light,  and  was  astounded  to  find  that  his  wife  had  raised 
herself  up  in  the  bed  on  her  elbow.  She  faintly  uttered  the  words, 
*  Where  am  I?'  and  again  relapsed  into  a  heavy  sleep.  The 
opportunity  was  seized  of  changing  the  shroud  for  proper  habili- 
ments, and  in  about  an  hour  and  a  half  she  woke  again  perfectly 
conscious.  Next  morning  she  was  told  of  what  had  occurred,  but 


was  quite  ignorant  of  everything  that  had  passed,  thinking  she  had 
only  had  a  long  sleep.  She  is  now  doing  well,  and  it  is  hoped  she 
will  soon  be  restored  to  health  and  strength.  The  doctor  describes 
the  case  as  the  most  remarkable  he  has  ever  met  with  in  his 

The  Echo,  January  1895,  tells,  the  story  of  a  woman's 
awful  experience  : — 

"An  extraordinary  affair  is  reported  from  Heap  Bridge,  Hey- 
wood.  Yesterday  a  woman  was  supposed  to  have  died,  and  she 
was  washed,  laid  out,  and  measured  for  her  coffin,  a  piece  of  linen 
being  placed  over  her  mouth.  Eight  hours  later,  however,  as  two 
women  were  engaged  in  the  room,  the  supposed  corpse  blew  the 
linen  away,  and  raised  herself  up  in  bed.  The  two  women  were 
terribly  frightened,  and  in  their  hasty  retreat  both  tumbled  down- 
stairs, and  are  now  suffering  from  slight  injuries,  as  well  as  shock. 
Some  time  elapsed  before  any  one  else  could  be  induced  to  enter 
the  house,  but  eventually  several  persons  went  in  together,  and 
found  the  woman  still  sitting  up  in  bed.  She  was  exceedingly 
weak.  Later,  however,  she  succumbed,  and  the  doctor  expressed 
the  opinion  that  her  death  was  accelerated  by  shock.  During  the 
night  the  woman  conversed  with  her  son,  who  had  carried  her 
upstairs  for  dead,  and  told  him  of  the  awful  sensation  she  felt  whilst 
unable  to  speak  during  the  washing  and  laying  out  of  her  body." 

The  Daily  Telegraph,  London,  December  12,  1893, 
mentions  the  following  weird  occurrence  : — 

u  Berlin,  December  11. 

"  From  Militsch,  in  Silesia,  an  extraordinary  case  of  trance  is 
reported.  It  seems  that,  owing  to  the  grave  not  being  in  readiness, 
some  delay  occurred  in  the  burial  of  a  lady  (the  wife  of  a  major  in 
the  army)  who  to  all  appearance  had  died.  On  the  fourth  day 
after  the  lady's  supposed  death  the  maid  was  placing  fresh  flowers 
round  the  coffin,  when  she  was  much  startled  at  seeing  the  body 
move,  and  finally  assume  an  erect  position.  The  lady  had  evi- 
dently been  in  a  state  of  coma  during  the  past  four  days,  and 
narrowly  escaped  being  buried  alive." 



How  near  a  person  may  be  to  a  terrible  and  ghastly 
death-struggle  for  a  brief  period,  in  which  a  lifetime 
seems  concentrated  amid  the  hopelessness  and  helpless- 
ness of  despair,  can,  to  some  extent,  be  measured  by  the 
records  of  the  apparently  fateful  accidents  which  have, 
at  the  last  moment,  saved  the  sufferers  from  their  awful 

A  medical  correspondent  writes  to  Cassell's  Magazine, 
September  20,  1896,  as  follows  : — 

"  I  once  witnessed  a  curious  case  of  rescue  from  premature 
burial.  The  patient  was  a  young  woman  of  nervous  temperament, 
who  was  greatly  affected  by  the  death  of  her  brother.  On  the  day 
of  the  funeral,  while  standing  by  the  coffin,  she  suddenly  fell  as 
one  dead.  Several  physicians  present  declared  she  had  died  from 
heart-failure.  When  called,  I  insisted  that  the  young  woman  was 
alive.  Applying  the  stethoscope  to  her  heart,  I  ultimately  observed 
a  slight  indication  of  life.  Equally  slight  indications  were 
apparent  at  various  nerve-centres.  After  two  days'  treatment  the 
young  woman  spoke.  She  described  all  that  had  occurred  around 
her,  even  her  sensations  as  the  doctors  were  debating  as  to  the 
reality  of  her  death.  But  she  could  not  contrive  to  indicate  the 
terror  she  felt  at  the  thought  of  the  terrible  fate  which  awaited  her 
should  her  condition  remain  undiscovered." 

Again     The    Morning    Leader,    December    9     1901, 

reports  a  telegram   thus  : — 

"  Lisbon,  Sunday. 

"  Donna  Maria  Gavazzo  has  had  a  marvellous  escape  from  being 
buried  alive,  under  circumstances  which  are  to  say  the  least 

"  It  was  announced  that  she  was  dead,  and  the  interment  was  to 
have  taken  place  to-day.  At  the  cemetery  the  last  funeral  rites 
were  being  performed  over  the  bier,  when  the  officiating  priest 
believed  he  heard  a  sigh  proceeding  from  the  coffin. 


"At  his  direction  the  coffin  was  at  once  opened,  when  it  was 
found  that  Donna  Maria  was  alive. 

"A  further  inquiry  into  the  details  of  the  case  will  certainly  be 

The  Westminster  Gazette,  March  16,  1901,  states: — 

"A  narrow  escape  from  being  buried  alive  is  reported  from 
Tulle.  A  girl,  who  had  been  ill  for  some  time,  fell  into  a  state  of 
coma.  On  Sunday  night  respiration  ceased,  the  body  became 
cold,  and  she  was,  to  all  appearance,  dead.  She  was  accordingly 
laid  out  in  her  best  clothes,  and  her  grave  and  coffin  were  ordered, 
when,  to  the  terror  of  her  relatives,  the  supposed  corpse  began  to 
move,  and  a  few  minutes  later  sat  up.  She  had  a  fit  when  she  was 
told  it  was  thought  she  was  dead.  It  is  now  expected  she  will 
recover. — Dalziel" 

Mr.  Thomas  W.  Wright,  of  Avenue  House,  Holly 
Park,  Crouch  Hill,  N.,  writes  as  follows,  May  2,  1901  : — 

"  I  know  of  two  or  three  cases,  one  of  a  woman  who  has  now 
reached  a  great  age,  who,  when  she  was  about  thirty  years  old,  was 
about  to  be  'screwed  down'  in  her  coffin,  but  fortunately  moved  in 
time  to  prevent  the  undertakers  from  completing  their  work.  I 
don't  know  much  about  the  question,  but  it  seems  to  me  that 
medical  men  are  much  to  blame  when  they  sign  certificates  of 
death  without  taking  the  trouble  to  see  whether  their  patient  is 
dead  ;  a  serious  fine  or  imprisonment  in  cases  of  such  negligence 
might  perhaps  check  the  custom." 

These  are  sentiments  with  which  every  thinking  person 
will  cordially  agree. 



WHENEVER  graveyards  have  been  removed,  owing  to 
the  rapid  expansion  of  towns,  in  America,  or  examined 
elsewhere,  unmistakable  evidences  of  premature  burial 
have  been  disclosed,  as  will  be  seen  in  this  volume  ; 
bodies  have  been  found  turned  upon  their  faces,  the 
limbs  contorted,  with  hair  dishevelled,  the  clothing  torn, 
the  flesh  mutilated,  and  coffins  broken  by  the  inmates 
in  their  mad  endeavour  to  escape  after  returning  con- 
sciousness, to  terminate  life  only  in  unspeakable  mental 
and  physical  agonies.  It  may  be  said  that  every  grave- 
yard has  its  traditions,  but  the  facts  are  carefully  con- 
cealed lest  they  should  reach  the  ears  of  the  relatives,  or 
incriminate  the  doctors  who  had  with  such  confidence 
certified  to  actual  deaths  which  were  only  apparent.  It 
is  not,  however,  the  custom  to  remove  graveyards  in 
Europe  until  all  possibility  of  such  discoveries  has  dis- 
appeared. To  reopen  a  grave  is  to  break  the  seal  of 
domestic  grief.  There  is  a  widespread  belief  that  where 
a  coffin,  with  a  duly  certified  corpse — dead  or  alive — has 
been  screwed  up,  it  must  not  be  opened  without  an 
authorization  from  a  magistrate,  mayor,  or  other  official, 
and  many  people  have  been  suffocated  in  their  coffins 
while  waiting  for  this  formality.  Common  sense,  under 
the  circumstances,  seems  to  be  often  paralysed. 



In  England  it  has  been  decided,  Reg.  v.  Sharpe 
(i  Dearsley  and  Bell,  160),  to  be  a  misdemeanour  to 
disinter  a  body  without  lawful  authority,  even  where  the 
motive  of  the  offender  was  pious  and  laudable ;  and  a  too 
rigorous  interpretation  of  this  and  similar  enactments 
in  other  countries  has  led  to  the  suffocation  of  many 
unfortunate  victims  of  a  mistaken  medical  diagnosis, 
whose  lives,  by  prompt  interposition,  might  have  been 


Koppen,  in  his  work,  entitled  "  Information  Relative 
to  Persons  who  have  been  Buried  Alive,"  Halle,  1799, 
dedicated  to  His  Majesty  the  King  of  Prussia,  Frederick 
William  III.,  quotes  the  following  amongst  a  large 

number  of  cases  of  premature  burial : — "  In  D ,  the 

Baroness  F—  -  died  of  small-pox.  She  was  kept  in 
her  house  three  days,  and  then  put  in  the  family  vault. 
After  a  time,  a  noise  of  knocking  was  heard  in  the  vault, 
and  the  voice  of  the  Baroness  was  also  heard.  The 
authorities  were  informed  ;  and  instead  of  opening  the 
door  with  an  axe,  as  could  have  been  done,  the  key  was 
sent  for,  which  took  three  or  four  hours  before  the 
messenger  returned  with  it.  On  opening  the  vault  it 
was  found  that  the  lady  was  lying  on  her  side,  with 
evidences  of  having  suffered  terrible  agony." 


Struve,  in  his  essay  on  "  Suspended  Animation,"  1803, 
p.  71,  relates  the  following: — "A  beggar  arrived  late  at 
night,  and  almost  frozen  to  death,  at  a  German  village, 


and  observing  a  schoolhouse  open,  resolved  to  sleep 
there.  The  next  morning  the  schoolboys  found  the 
poor  man  sitting  motionless  in  the  room,  and  hastened, 
affrighted,  to  inform  the  schoolmaster  of  what  they  had 
seen.  The  villagers,  supposing  the  beggar  to  be  dead, 
interred  him  in  the  evening.  During  the  night  the 
watchman  heard  a  knocking  in  the  grave,  accompanied 
by  lamentations.  He  gave  information  to  the  bailiff  of 
the  village,  who  declined  to  listen  to  his  tale.  Soon 
afterwards  the  watchman  returned  to  the  grave,  and 
again  heard  a  hollow  noise,  interrupted  by  sighs.  He 
once  more  hastened  to  the  magistrate,  earnestly  solicit- 
ing him  to  cause  the  grave  to  be  opened  ;  but  the  latter, 
being  irresolute,  delayed  this  measure  till  the  next 
morning,  when  he  applied  to  the  sheriff,  who  lived  at  a 
distance  from  the  village,  in  order  to  obtain  the  necessary 
directions.  He  was,  however,  obliged  to  wait  some 
time  before  an  interview  took  place.  The  more  judicious 
sheriff  severely  censured  the  magistrate  for  not  having 
opened  the  grave  on  the  information  from  the  watchman, 
and  desired  him  to  return  and  cause  it  to  be  opened 
without  delay.  On  his  arrival,  the  grave  was  immedi- 
ately opened  ;  but,  just  Heaven  !  what  a  sight !  The 
poor,  wretched  man,  after  having  recovered  in  the  grave, 
had  expired  for  want  of  air.  In  his  anguish  and  despera- 
tion he  had  torn  the  flesh  from  his  arms.  All  the 
spectators  were  struck  with  horror  at  this  dreadful 


An  authentic  case,  on  which  Devergie  has  made  an 
elaborate  report  ("Ann.  d'Hyg.,"  1870,  2,  310)  occurred 
near  Morlaix,  in  France.  "  A  woman  died,  as  it  was 


supposed,  from  cholera.  She  was  seen  while  ill  by  a 
medical  man,  but  not  after  the  supposed  death.  She 
was  placed  in  a  coffin  in  an  hour,  and  buried  in  sixteen 
hours.  During  the  interment  a  noise  was  heard  in  the 
coffin.  Time  was  lost  in  sending  for  a  medical  man,  and 
the  coffin  was  not  opened  until  he  arrived.  The  shroud 
was  found  twisted  and  folded  about  the  neck  and  feet, 
as  if  struggles  had  been  made,  and  there  was  a  quantity 
of  liquid  on  it,  which  had  issued  from  the  mouth  and 
nostrils  during  efforts  made  to  breathe.  The  body  was 
warm,  and  the  pulsations  of  the  heart  had  not  completely 
ceased,  but  it  was  too  late,  every  effort  at  resuscitation 


The  Undertakers'  Journal,  November  22,  1880,  relates 
the  following : — "  An  extraordinary  story  is  reported 
from  Tredegar,  South  Wales.  A  man  was  buried  at 
Cefn  Golan  Cemetery,  and  it  is  alleged  that  some  of 
those  who  took  part  in  carrying  the  body  to  the  burial- 
ground  heard  knocking  inside  the  coffin.  No  notice  was 
taken  of  the  affair  at  the  time,  but  it  has  now  come  up 
again,  and  the  rumour  has  caused  a  painful  sensation 
throughout  the  district.  It  is  stated  that  application 
has  been  made  to  the  Home  Secretary  for  permission 
to  exhume  the  body." 


Dr.  Franz  Hartmann,  in  his  "  Premature  Burial,"  pp. 
10  and  44,  relates  the  two  following  cases  : — "  In  the 
year  1856  a  man  died  in  an  Hungarian  village.  It  is 
customary  there  to  dig  the  graves  in  rows.  As  the 


gravedigger  was  making  the  new  grave  he  heard  sounds 
as  of  knocking  proceeding  from  a  grave  where  a  man 
had  been  buried  a  few  days  previously.  Terrified,  he 
went  to  the  priest,  and  with  the  priest  to  the  police. 
At  last  permission  was  granted  to  open  the  grave  ;  but 
by  that  time  its  occupant  had  died  in  reality.  The  fact 
that  he  had  been  buried  alive  was  made  evident  by  the 
condition  of  the  body,  and  by  the  wounds  which  the 
man  had  inflicted  upon  himself  by  biting  his  shoulders 
and  arms. 


"  In  a  small  town  in  Prussia,  an  undertaker,  living 
within  the  limits  of  the  cemetery,  heard  during  the 
night  cries  proceeding  from  within  a  grave  in  which 
a  person  had  been  buried  on  the  previous  day.  Not 
daring  to  interfere  without  permission,  he  went  to  the 
police  and  reported  the  matter.  When,  after  a  great 
deal  of  delay,  the  required  formalities  were  fulfilled  and 
permission  granted  to  open  the  grave,  it  was  found  that 
the  man  had  been  buried  alive,  but  that  he  was  now 
dead.  His  body,  which  had  been  cold  at  the  time  of 
the  funeral,  was  now  warm  and  bleeding  from  many 
wounds,  where  he  had  skinned  his  hands  and  head  in 
his  struggles  to  free  himself  before  suffocation  made  an 
end  to  his  misery." 


A  medical  correspondent  communicates  to  the  author 
particulars  of  the  following  case,  which  occurred  at  Salz- 
burg,  Austria : — "  Some   children  were   playing  in  the 
Luzergasse  Cemetery,  and  their  attention  was  attracted 


by  knocking  sounds  in  a  newly-made  grave.  They 
informed  the  gravedigger  of  it,  and  he  secured  permis- 
sion to  open  the  grave  from  whence  the  sounds  seemed 
to  come.  A  man  had  been  buried  there  at  two  p.m. 
that  day.  The  formalities  of  the  permission  to  open  the 
grave  delayed  it  till  seven  p.m.,  when,  on  opening  the 
coffin,  the  body  was  found  to  be  bent  completely  over 
forwards,  and  was  frightfully  distorted  and  bleeding  from 
places  on  the  hands  and  arms,  which  seemed  to  have 
been  gnawed  by  the  man's  own  teeth.  The  medical 
experts  who  were  called  in  to  examine  the  case  declared 
that  the  man  had  been  buried  alive." 


From  the  Undertakers  'and  Funeral  Directors'  Journal, 
January  22,  1887: — "Another  shocking  case  of  prema- 
ture burial  is  reported  ;  the  distressing  incident  took 
place  at  Saumur,  in  France.  A  young  man  suddenly 
died,  at  least  to  all  appearance,  and  his  burial  was 
ordered  to  take  place  as  soon  as  possible.  The  croque- 
morts,  or  undertaker's  men,  who  carried  the  coffin  to  the 
grave,  thought  they  heard  a  noise  like  knocking  under 
its  lid,  yet,  being  afraid  of  creating  a  panic  among  the 
people  who  attended  the  funeral,  they  went  on  with 
their  burden.  The  coffin  was  duly  placed  in  the  grave, 
but,  as  the  earth  was  being  thrown  upon  it,  unmistakable 
sounds  of  knocking  was  heard  by  everybody.  The 
mayor,  however,  had  to  be  sent  for  before  the  coffin 
could  be  opened,  and  some  delay  occurred  in  the  arrival 
of  that  official.  When  the  lid  was  removed,  the  horrible 
discovery  was  made  that  the  unfortunate  inmate  had 
only  just  died  from  asphyxia.  The  conviction  is 


spreading  that  the  terrible  French  law  requiring  speedy 
interment  ought  to  be  modified  without  delay." 


Mr.  William  Harbutt,  School  of  Art,  Bath,  writes  to 
me,  November  27,  1895  : — "The  copies  of  the  pamphlet 
*  The  Perils  of  Premature  Burial,'  by  Professor  Alex. 
Wilder,  you  kindly  sent  me  are  in  circulation.  Almost 
every  one  to  whom  I  mention  the  subject  knows  some 
instances.  One,  a  case  at  Radstock,  twelve  miles  from 
Bath,  where  the  bearers  at  the  funeral  heard  noises 
inside  the  coffin,  but  were  afraid  to  open  it  without  the 
authority  from  a  magistrate.  When  it  was  opened  next 
day  the  appearance  of  the  body  showed  that  he  had 
been  coffined  alive,  and  had  had  a  terrible  struggle  to 


From  the  Star,  London,  May  13,  1895  : — "A  woman 
who  was  believed  to  have  died  the  day  before  was  be- 
ing buried  at  Doussard,  when  the  gravedigger,  who  was 
engaged  in  filling  up  the  grave,  distinctly  heard  knock- 
ing coming  from  the  coffin.  He  called  a  man  who  was 
working  near,  and  he  came  and  listened,  and  heard  the 
knocking  also.  It  was  then  about  nine  o'clock  in  the 
morning.  The  knocking  continued,  and  they  listened 
for  about  half  an  hour,  when  it  occurred  to  one  of  them 
that  they  ought  to  do  something,  so  they  went  to  inform 
the  local  authorities.  The  cur^  of  the  village  was  the  first 
to  arrive  on  the  scene ;  but  as  no  one  had  any  authority 
to  exhume  the  body  the  coffin  was  not  taken  up.  All 
that  was  done  was  to  bore  some  holes  in  the  lid  with  a 


drill  in  such  a  way  as  to  admit  of  air.  By  mid-day  all 
the  necessary  formalities  had  been  gone  through,  and  it 
was  decided  at  last  to  open  the  coffin.  This  was  done ; 
but  whether  the  unfortunate  woman  was  still  alive  at 
this  time  is  doubtful.  Some  of  those  present  affirm  that 
she  was.  They  state  that  they  saw  a  little  colour  come 
into  her  cheeks,  and  the  eyes  open  and  shut.  One  thing 
is  certain — viz. :  that  when  at  half-past  six  in  the  evening 
it  was  finally  decided  to  consult  a  doctor,  the  practitioner 
summoned  declared  that  death  had  taken  place  not 
more  than  five  or  six  hours  before.  It  was  thought  that 
had  the  coffin  been  opened  directly  the  sounds  were 
heard  the  woman's  life  might  have  been  saved,  and  she 
would  have  been  spared  hours  of  indescribable  torture 
and  suffering." 


The  Paris  edition  of  the  New  York  Herald,  May  14, 
1895,  says: — "The  case  of  the  woman  buried  alive  at 
Annecy,  in  the  Haute-Savoie,  the  other  day,  has  almost 
found  a  pendant  at  Limoges.  A  woman,  belonging  to 
the  village  of  Laterie,  died,  to  all  appearance  at  least,  a 
few  days  ago.  After  the  body  had  been  placed  in  a 
coffin,  it  was  transported  to  the  village  church.  On  the 
way  the  bearers  heard  sounds  proceeding  from  it,  and  at 
once  sent  for  the  mayor,  who  ordered  it  to  be  opened. 
The  woman  was  found  to  be  suffering  from  eclampsia, 
which  had  been  mistaken  for  death  by  her  relatives." 

When  will  people  learn  to  exercise  common  sense, 
and  remember  that  life  is  more  valuable  than  red  tape, 
and  the  spirit  of  human  pity  and  practical  sympathy  of 
greater  moment  than  the  lettter  of  English  law? 



THERE  is  a  great  and  natural  reluctance  on  the  part  of 
medical  practitioners  to  admit  that  they  have  made 
mistakes  in  death-certification,  particularly  in  any  one 
of  the  various  forms  of  death  counterfeits,  or  suspended 
animation.  It  should  be  noted  that  amongst  the  lectures 
delivered  on  special  occasions,  such  as  the  opening  of  the 
medical  schools,  the  subjects  of  trance  and  the  danger  of 
premature  burial  are  conspicuous  by  their  absence ; 
allusion  to  these  subjects  is  of  rare  occurrence,  nor  does 
the  study  of  this  abstruse  branch  of  medicine,  so  far  as 
can  be  ascertained,  form  part  of  any  medical  curriculum. 
In  the  bibliography  at  the  end  of  this  volume,  extensive 
as  it  is,  I  can  hardly  refer  to  a  single  instance.  Dr.  Franz 
Hartmann,  whose  work  on  "  Buried  Alive "  has  passed 
through  two  English  and  one  German  editions,  informs 
me  that  the  same  reticence  is  observable  in  the  medical 
schools  of  Germany. 

Many  medical  men  do  not  believe  in  death-trance. 
They  declare  that  they  have  never  seen  such  a  case,  and 
in  their  judgment,  when  a  sick  patient  ceases  to  breathe, 
when  volition  is  suspended,  and  the  stethoscope  reveals 
no  signs  of  cardiac  action,  the  death  is  real,  and  the  case 
beyond  recovery.  But  the  reader  will  already  have 
gathered,  from  the  results  of  inquiry  in  many  countries 


disclosed  in  the  foregoing  pages,  that  such  evidence  is 
not  in  itself  sufficient  to  justify  the  risk  of  possible 
live  sepulture.  There  should  be  no  sign,  nor  any  collec- 
tion of  signs,  deemed  of  sufficient  weight,  apart  from  the 
process  of  decomposition. 


As  an  instance  of  the  justifiable  uneasiness  caused  by 
the  neglect  of  this  simple  precaution,  we  quote  from  the 
Medical  Times,  London,  1860,  vol.  i.,  p.  65. 

"A  lady  entering  upon  the  ninth  month  of  pregnancy  died  of 
pneumonia.  All  the  other  phenomena  of  death  ensued,  except 
that  the  colour  of  the  face  was  unusually  life-like.  On  the  fifteenth 
day  from  that  of  death  there  was  not  the  least  cadaveric  odour 
from  the  corpse,  nor  had  its  appearance  much  altered,  and  it  was 
only  on  the  sixteenth  clay  that  the  lips  darkened.  The  temperature 
of  the  atmosphere  had  undergone  many  changes  during  the  time 
mentioned,  but  although  there  had  been  frost  for  a  short  period, 
the  weather  was  in  general  damp  and  cold." 

This  lady  may  have  been  dead,  but — she  may  not. 
What  we  maintain  is,  that  the  burial  laws  should  have 
been  such  as  to  make  it  certain  that  she  was  dead  before 
interment,  by  the  appearance  of  general  decomposition. 
And  it  must  be  obvious  to  the  least  reflective  reader 
that  in  countries  where  burial  follows  quickly  upon 
supposed  death  (as  in  Turkey,  France,  and  Italy,  some 
parts  of  Ireland,  and  throughout  India),  or  where  there 
is  no  compulsory  examination  of  the  dead  (as  in  the 
United  States  or  the  United  Kingdom),  and  amongst 
people  like  the  Jews  (since  Jewish  custom  enjoins  speedy 
interment),  and  especially  in  cases  of  sudden  death 
(where  attempts  at  resuscitation  are  rare),  the  number 
of  premature  burials  may  be  considerable. 



We  are  not  oblivious  of  the  fact  that  a  body  may 
present  the  most  life-like  appearance  for  a  considerable 
period — in  one  case  on  record  as  long  as  twenty-eight 
days — in  spite  of  the  presence  of  the  usual  signs  of  death. 
Taylor,  in  his  standard  work,  "  The  Principles  and 
Practice  of  Medical  Jurisprudence,"  cites  a  case  in  point, 
well  authenticated,  in  which,  on  the  eighteenth  day 
after  every  sign  of  respiration  and  circulation  had  ceased, 
the  lips  presented  their  usual  red  colour,  and,  although 
the  body  was  in  a  warm  room,  there  was  no  disagreeable 
odour  and  no  cadaveric  ecchymosis,  neither  was  the  slow 
cooling  nor  progressive  rigidity  observed.  The  reality 
of  death,  by  the  signs  of  putrefaction,  did  not  become 
apparent  until  the  twentieth  day.  The  author,  com- 
menting upon  this  case,  says  : — "  Had  this  patient  fallen 
into  the  hands  of  ignorant  nurses  or  attendants,  instead 
of  professional  men,  it  is  probable  that  the  body  might 
have  been  consigned  to  the  grave  in  two  or  three  days. 
Although,  as  the  event  subsequently  proved,  this  would 
not  have  furnished  another  instance  of  the  premature 
interment  of  a  living  person,  yet  the  proper  cours6  in  all 
doubtful  cases  is  to  wait  until  that  doubt  has  been 
satisfactorily  resolved  by  the  appearance  of  the  obvious 
signs  of  decomposition." 


In  the  United  States,  while  there  is  no  law,  as  in 
France,  enforcing  burial  within  a  prescribed  number 
of  days,  it  is  the  custom  of  civil  authorities,  under 


regulations  made  by  the  Boards  of  Health,  to  compel 
interments,  if  delayed  beyond  a  few  days. 

Particulars  of  the  following  case  were  sent  me  by  a 
physician,  January  17,  1894: — 

"  Mrs.  John  Emmons,  of  North  Judson,  Ind.,  was  taken  suddenly 
ill,  and  apparently  died,  a  week  ago.  Her  husband  desired  to  keep 
the  body  for  a  few  days,  to  make  sure  of  death.  It  seems  that  her 
mother  went  into  a  trance  for  four  days,  rallied,  and  lived  five 
years  ;  also  that  her  grandfather  on  her  mother's  side,  after  having 
been  pronounced  dead  for  six  days,  awoke,  and  lived  for  twenty- 
three  years.  Mrs.  Emmons's  body  was  kept  until  Saturday,  when, 
on  the  demand  of  the  physician  and  numerous  residents,  it  was 
interred.  During  the  time  between  Monday  and  Saturday  the 
body  did  not  become  rigid.  Mortification  did  not  set  in,  and  she 
was  laid  to  rest  without  waiting  for  that,  the  surest  of  all  tests,  to 
take  place.  Many  are  of  the  opinion  that  the  woman  has  been 
buried  alive." 

There  are  many  cases  like  the  above  on  record,  in 
which,  although  there  is  no  absolute  proof  of  premature 
burial,  there  is  strong  presumptive  evidence  of  it. 


The  following  appeared  in  Truth  (London),  on 
May  23,  1895  ;  it  forms  but  an  example  of  many  similar 
instances  of  which  the  writer  has  heard  : — 

"The  other  day  I  gave  a  story  showing  the  difficulty  of  obtaining 
a  post-mortem  examination  after  a  doctor  has  once  certified  the 
cause  of  death.  One  of  my  readers  caps  it  with  a  gruesome 
narrative  of  which  this  is  the  outline  :  A  man  lately  died  in 
London.  The  coffin  had  to  be  removed  by  rail,  and  was  to  be 
closed  on  the  fourth  day  after  the  death.  My  informant,  taking  a 
last  look  at  the  deceased,  was  struck  by  the  complete  absence  of 
all  the  ordinary  signs  of  death  at  such  a  period.  In  particular,  he 
states  that  there  was  no  rigidity  in  any  part  of  the  body,  and  there 


was  a  perceptible  tinge  of  colour  in  the  forehead.  He  went  over 
to  the  doctor  who  had  attended  the  deceased,  described  all  the 
signs  that  he  had  observed,  and  begged  him  to  come  and  look 
at  the  body  before  the  coffin  was  closed.  The  doctor  absolutely 
refused,  saying  that  he  had  given  his  certificate,  and  had  no 
doubt  as  to  the  man's  death.  The  friend  then  suggested  that  he 
might  himself  open  a  vein  and  see  if  blood  flowed,  to  which  the 
doctor  replied  that,  if  he  did  so  without  the  authority  of  the  widow, 
he  would  be  indictable  for  felony.  'Whereupon,'  says  my  informant, 
who  was  only  a  friend  of  the  family,  '  I  had  to  retire  baffled,  and 
let  matters  take  their  course.'  Why  on  earth  he  did  not  take  the 
widow  into  his  confidence,  or  risk  an  indictment  for  felony  by 
opening  a  vein  on  his  own  account,  or  even  summon  another 
doctor,  he  does  not  say.  I  trust  that,  should  any  friend  of  mine 
see  my  coffin  about  to  be  screwed  down  under  similar  circum- 
stances, and  find  equal  cause  to  doubt  whether  I  am  dead,  he 
will  summon  up  courage  to  stick  a  pin  into  me,  and  chance  the 
consequences.  This,  however,  has  nothing  to  do  with  the  doctor's 
responsibilities.  It  would  seem  that  the  medico  in  this  case  was 
either  so  confident  in  his  own  opinion  as  to  decline  even  to 
walk  across  the  road  to  investigate  the  extraordinary  symptoms 
described  to  him,  or  else  that  he  preferred  the  chance  of  the  man 
being  buried  alive  to  the  chance  of  having  to  admit  he  had  made 
a  mistake.  Which  alternative  is  the  worst  I  do  not  know." 


The  Gaulois  (Paris),  of  May  16,  1894,  contains  the 
following,  which  manifests  a  laudable  exception  to  the 
legal  custom  of  enforcing  speedy  interment : — 

"The  funeral  of  the  Comtesse  de  Jarnac,  whose  death  was 
reported  to  have  taken  place  on  Saturday,  was  fixed  for  to-morrow, 
but  it  will  probably  be  postponed.  None  of  the  usual  signs  of 
dissolution  have  appeared  ;  the  face  still  retains  its  colour,  and 
rigor  mortis  has  not  yet  set  in.  Some  hope  is  even  entertained 
that  the  Comtesse  may  be  simply  in  a  state  of  catalepsy,  and  that 
the  embolus,  to  which  death  was  attributed,  may  have  lodged  in 


the  lungs,  not  in  the  heart,  in  which  case  it  may  merely  have 
caused  a  stoppage  of  the  circulation  (sic).  The  body  had  not  been 
placed  in  the  coffin  up  to  a  late  hour  last  night." 


One  of  the  authors  was  present  on  May  14,  1894, 
with  a  company  of  ladies  and  gentlemen  gathered  at 
a  country  mansion  in  the  Austrian  Tyrol  for  afternoon 
tea,  when  the  conversation  turned  upon  the  subject  of 
premature  burial.  Among  other  cases  related,  the  host 
described  that  of  one  of  his  servants,  a  woman,  who 
went  to  bed  with  toothache,  a  long  scarf  being  wrapped 
around  her  face  and  neck.  As  she  did  not  appear  the 
following  morning,  our  host  entered  her  room,  and 
found  her,  as  he  supposed,  strangled  to  death  by  the 
scarf  tightly  wound  about  her  neck.  A  doctor  was 
summoned,  when  he  found  that  the  woman  was  warm 
and  limp,  her  face  soft  and  coloured  as  in  life  ;  yet,  as 
there  was  no  respiration  or  perceptible  wrist-pulse,  nor 
beating  of  the  heart,  he  regarded  her  as  dead,  and 
thought  it  would  be  proper  to  bury  her.  The  host  had 
doubts,  however,  about  the  case,  and,  having  decided  to 
observe  it  further,  he  had  the  woman  removed  to  an 
outhouse,  where  she  remained  three  days  longer  without 
any  change  in  her  appearance  or  condition  in  any  way. 
But  as  there  was  considerable  impatience  felt  at  the 
delay  of  the  burial  by  the  people  on  the  estate,  the  host 
sent  for  two  doctors  to  make  a  final  examination  of  the 
woman,  and  decide  as  to  the  existence  of  life  or  death. 
The  doctors  found  that  no  change  had  taken  place — 
there  was  softness  of  the  skin,  colour  in  the  face,  limp- 
ness of  the  muscles,  and  an  unmistakable  warmth  of  the 


body ;  but  as  there  was  an  absence  of  apparent  respir- 
ation and  beating  of  the  heart,  they  decided  that  the 
woman  was  dead,  and  urged  her  burial,  which  was  done. 
They  attributed  the  high  temperature  to  the  process  of 
decomposition  which  they  assumed  was  going  on,  though 
there  was  no  odour  of  putrefaction  noticed  by  anyone. 

The  possibility  is  that  this  woman  was  buried  alive. 
And,  in  the  present  state  of  medical  education  on  the 
subject  of  apparent  death  and  the  causes  that  bring  it 
about,  many  physicians  would  have  come  to  a  like 
conclusion  ;  but,  as  physicians  generally  know  very  little 
about  it,  they  are  not  on  their  guard  concerning  its 

A  number  of  cases  of  apparent  death  that  have 
survived — where  there  was  strangulation  from  a  scarf* 
as  in  this  case — have  been  reported.  The  explanation 
in  such  cases  is,  that  the  presssure  of  the  scarf  around 
the  neck  keeps  the  venous  blood  from  flowing  down 
from  the  brain  through  the  jugular  veins,  and  the  brain, 
in  consequence,  becomes  saturated  with  carbonic  acid  gas 
from  the  detained  venous  blood,  and  a  death- like  stupor, 
caused  by  carbonic  acid  poisoning,  ensues.  Artificial 
respiration  should  in  all  such  cases  be  resorted  to. 


A  leading  Wes.t  End  undertaker,  whose  letter  is 
before  me,  writes  under  date  of  June  26,  1896,  as 
follows  : — "  In  my  experience  I  have  had  but  one  case 
come  under  my  personal  observation  where  I  had  real 
uncertainty  as  to  death  being  actually  present,  and  that 
was  an  instance  of  the  kind  in  which  this  calamity  is 


only  likely,  in  my  opinion,  to  occur.  A  girl  who  had 
been  to  work  in  Berwick's  factory  apparently  fainted 
and  died,  and  within  a  few  days  the  friends  buried  her. 
When  we  came  to  close  the  coffin,  there  was  no  evidence 
of  death,  and  we  did  not  close  it  without  having  a  doctor 
sent  for,  and  receiving  his  assurance  that  she  was  dead. 
When  reading  the  fatal  cases  which  have  come  to  light 
upon  this  subject,  I  must  confess  to  looking  back  upon 
that  instance  with  much  fear,  and  it  is  but  a  poor  con- 
solation to  me  that  the  responsibility  was  not  mine,  but 
the  medical  man's. 


The  foregoing  cases  are  recorded  because  they  are 
types  of  a  class  that  nearly  every  physician,  undertaker, 
clergyman,  or  other  observer  has  met  with  or  heard  of, 
and  the  probabilities,  having  regard  to  the  existing  con- 
fusion and  uncertainty  of  opinion  on  the  signs  of  death, 
are  on  the  side  of  apparent  rather  than  real  death.  On 
the  other  hand,  a  medical  correspondent  informs  the 
author  that  he  is  sceptical  as  to  the  reported  cases  of 
narrow  escapes,  as  on  more  than  one  occasion  his  efforts 
to  verify  the  facts  have  proved  abortive.  It  must  be 
admitted  that  there  are  difficulties  in  the  way  of  such 
inquiries.  If  the  subject  of  trance,  or  narrow  escape 
from  burial,  is  a  lady,  publicity  injures  her  prospects  of 
marriage  ;  and  if  a  young  man,  his  reputation  for  busi- 
ness stability  is  endangered  or  prejudiced  ;  so  that  this 
reticence  on  the  part  of  relatives  is  hardly  surprising. 
Such  persons  do  not  like  their  gruesome  and  unpleasant 
experiences  to  be  talked  about. 



THOSE  who  are  most  subject  to  the  various  forms  of 
death-counterfeit  are  persons  whose  vocations  exhaust 
the  nervous  force  faster  than  the  natural  powers  of 
recuperation,  or  who  resort  to  narcotics  and  stimulants 
to  counteract  the  physical  depression  consequent  upon 
nervous  exhaustion.  Then  there  is  the  hysterical 
class — principally  females,  who  take  but  little  nourish- 
ment, and  who  allow  their  imaginations  to  run  riot  upon 
every  gloomy  subject  which  arrests  them,  until  the  ner- 
vous system  becomes  prostrate,  and  they  fall  into 
a  state  of  lethargy.  Those  given  to  fainting,  again, 
or  those  in  whom  the  heart  has  practically  failed  from 
shock  or  loss  of  blood — as  in  recorded  cases  of 
soldiers  dying  upon  the  battle-field  from  wounds,  and 
who  have  been  brought  back  to  life  as  long  as  twelve 
days  afterwards.  Plague,  cholera,  typhoid  have  been 
fruitful  sources  of  such  partial  inhibition  of  the  heart's 
action,  and  many  are  the  gruesome  narratives  of  burials 
of  persons  in  a  state  of  coma  arising  from  such  causes. 
One  shudders  to  contemplate  the  possibilities  and 
probabilities  connected  with  the  hasty  burials  during 
epidemics  of  the  early  part  of  last  and  the  previous 
century,  especially  in  cases  where  many  bodies  were 
hurried  into  a  common  grave. 



In  an  address  delivered  by  Dr.  Alexander  Wilder,  as 
president,  before  a  State  medical  society  in  the  Hall  of 
the  House  of  Assembly  in  the  State  of  New  York,  at 
Albany,  he  said  : — 

"  We  exhaust  our  energies  by  overwork,  by  too  much 
excitement,  overtaxing  of  the  brain  and  nervous  system, 
insufficient  resting  from  labour,  the  use  of  tobacco, 
alcohol,  and  sedatives  or  anaesthetics,  and  by  irregular 
and  improper  habits,  which  hasten  the  Three  Sisters  in 
cutting  off  the  fatal  thread.  Apoplexy,  palsy,  epilepsy 
are  thus  likely  to  prostrate  us  at  any  moment :  and 
catalepsy,  to  an  extent  of  which  few  are  aware,  is  not 
far  from  any  of  us." 

Equally,  if  not  even  more  likely,  to  be  overtaken  by 
these  simulacra  of  death  are  the  poor — the  ill-fed,  ill- 
conditioned,  and  overworked  classes. 

With  regard  to  the  causation  of  catalepsy,  Dr.  W.  R. 
Cowers,  in  Quain's  "Dictionary  of  Medicine,"  p.  216, 
says : — "  Nervous  exhaustion  is  the  common  predis- 
ponent ;  and  emotional  disturbance,  especially  religious 
excitement,  or  sudden  alarm,  and  blows  on  the  head  and 
back,  are  frequent  immediate  causes.  It  occasionally 
occurs  in  the  course  of  mental  affections,  especially  in 
melancholia,  and  as  an  early  symptom  of  epilepsy." 


Dr.  James  Curry,  F.A.S.,  in  his  "  Observations  on 
Apparent  Death,"  pp.  81,  82,  referring  to  those  con- 
ditions and  diseases  which  predispose  to  death- 


counterfeits,  to  which  women  are  more  liable  than 
men,  says: — "The  faintings  which  most  require  assist- 
ance, and  to  which,  therefore,  I  wish  particularly  to 
direct  the  attention  of  my  readers  and  the  public,  are 
those  that  take  place  from  loss  of  blood,  violent  and 
long-continued  fits  of  coughing,  excessive  vomiting  or 
purging,  great  fatigue  or  want  of  food,  and  likewise 
after  convulsions,  and  in  the  advanced  stage  of  low 
fevers.  It  is  but  seldom,  however,  that  any  attempt  at 
recovery  is  made  in  such  cases ;  and  several  reasons  may 
be  assigned  for  this,  particularly  the  great  resemblance 
that  fainting  fits  of  any  duration  bear  to  actual  death,  and 
the  firm  belief  of  the  bystanders  that  the  circumstances 
which  preceded  were  sufficient  to  destroy  life  entirely." 

The  authpr  continues,  pp.  106,  107: — "Nervous  and 
highly  hysterical  females,  who  are  subject  to  fainting 
fits,  are  the  most  frequent  subjects  of  this  kind  of 
apparent  death  ;  in  which  the  person  seems  in  a  state 
very  nearly  resembling  that  of  hibernating  animals,  such 
as  the  dormouse,  bat,  toad,  frog,  etc.,  which  annually 
become  insensible,  motionless,  and  apparently  dead,  on 
the  setting  in  of  the  winter's  cold,  but  spontaneously 
revive  on  the  returning  warmth  of  spring.  Here,  by 
some  peculiar  and  yet  unknown  circumstance,  the  vital 
principle  has  its  action  suspended,  but  neither  its  exist- 
ence destroyed,  nor  its  organs  injured,  so  as  absolutely 
to  prevent  recovery,  if  not  too  long  neglected." 


Dr.  Franz  Hartmann  reports  a  case  which  occurred 
within  half  a  mile  of  his  residence;  near  Hallein, 
Austria : — "  At  Oberalm,  near  Hallein,  there  died  the 


widow  of  a  Dr.  Ettenberger,  a  lawyer.  It  was  known 
that  she  had  previously  been  affected  with  fits  of  cata- 
lepsy, and  therefore  all  possible  means  were  taken  for 
the  purpose  of  restoring  her  to  life.  All,  however,  were 
in  vain,  and  her  death  appeared  to  be  certain.  On  the 
third  day,  just  before  the  hour  appointed  for  the  funeral, 
the  family  physician,  Dr.  Leber,  bethought  himself  of 
trying  some  fresh  experiments  on  the  corpse,  when  the 
woman  revived.  She  had  been  fully  conscious  all  the 
time,  and  aware  of  all  the  preparations  that  were  made 
for  her  funeral,  although  unable  to  make  it  known  to 
others  that  she  was  still  alive." 

Dr.  Hartmann  says  : — "  In  1866,  in  Kronstadt,  a 
young  and  strong  man,  Orrendo  by  name,  had  a  fit  and 
died.  He  was  put  into  a  coffin  and  deposited  in  the 
family  vault  in  a  church.  Fourteen  years  afterwards,  in 
1880,  the  same  vault  was  opened  again  for  the  purpose 
of  admitting  another  corpse.  A  horrible  sight  met 
those  who  entered.  Orrendo's  coffin  was  empty,  and 
his  skeleton  lying  upon  the  floor.  But  the  rest  of  the 
coffins  were  also  broken  open  and  emptied  of  their 
contents.  It  seemed  to  show  that  the  man  after 
awakening  had  burst  his  coffin  open,  and,  becoming 
insane,  had  smashed  the  others,  after  which  he  had  been 
starved  to  death." — Premature  Burial,  p.  7. 

Bouchut,  in  "  Signes  de  la  Mort,"  p.  40,  relates  that 
"  a  lawyer  at  Vesoul  was  subject  to  fits  of  fainting,  but 
kept  the  matter  secret,  so  that  the  knowledge  of  it 
might  not  spread  and  interfere  with  his  prospects  of 
marriage  ;  he  only  spoke  confidentially  of  it  to  one  of 
his  friends.  The  marriage  took  place,  and  he  lived  for 
some  time  in  good  health,  then  suddenly  fell  into  one 


of  his  fits,  and  his  wife  and  the  doctors,  believing  him 
dead,  had  him  placed  in  a  coffin,  and  got  everything 
ready  for  the  funeral.  His  friend  was  absent,  but  fortu- 
nately returned  just  in  time  to  prevent  the  burial.  The 
lawyer  recovered,  and  lived  for  sixteen  years  after  this 


M.  Charles  Londe,  in  "La  Mort  Apparente,"  p.  16, 
says : — "  Intense  cold,  coincident  with  privations  and 
fatigue,  will  produce  all  the  phenomena  of  apparent 
death — phenomena  susceptible  of  prolongation  during 
several  days  without  producing  actual  death,  and  con- 
sequently exposing  the  individual  who  could  be  restored 
to  life  to  living  burial " ;  and  he  further  maintains  it  as 
an  indisputable  fact  that  every  day  people  are  thus 
interred  alive. 

Struve,  in  his  essay  on  "  Suspended  Animation,"  p.  140, 
says  : — "  In  no  case  whatever  is  the  danger  of  commit- 
ting homicide  greater  than  in  the  treatment  of  persons 
who  have  suffered  by  severe  cold.  Their  death-like 
state  may  deceive  our  judgment,  not  only  because  such 
persons  continue  longest  apparently  dead,  but  because 
the  want  of  susceptibility  of  irritation  is  in  many  cases 
not  distinguishable  from  real  death.  A  man  benumbed 
with  cold  burnt  his  feet,  and  had  continued  insensible  to 
pain,  nor  did  he  feel  this  sensation  till  he  warmed  them 
at  a  fire.  In  this  case  it  is  evident  that  the  suscepti- 
bility of  irritation  was  destroyed,  while  vital  power 

A  story  is  told  of  a  grenadier  belonging  to  the 
Strassburg  garrison,  who  was  found  frozen  in  the  river 


Ill ;  he  was  taken  to  the  hospital,  warmth  was  applied, 
and  he  survived.  At  Strassburg,  according  to  Dr. 
Brouardel,  on  another  occasion,  a  hospital  attendant  was 
found  frozen,  was  resuscitated,  and  still  continues  his 
duties,  which  he  has  now  performed  for  many  years. 


This  is  a  malady  that  has  been  enormously  rife  all 
over  the  world  during  the  past  few  years,  and  has  baffled 
the  efforts  of  physicians  and  sanitarians  to  arrest  its 
progress :  it  is  sometimes  accompanied  by  conditions 
which  can  hardly  be  distinguished  from  catalepsy. 

The  Lancet,  May  31,  1890,  page  1215,  states: — "The 
neurotic  sequelae  of  influenza  seem  engaging  more 
attention  abroad  than  at  home,  probably  from  their 
symptoms  being  more  pronounced  than  on  this  side  the 
Channel.  *  Nona,'  as  it  is  called,  if  something  more  than 
the  somnolence  succeeding  the  exhaustion  of  influenza, 
has  been  thought  in  Upper  Italy  to  have  much  in 
common  with  catalepsy — one  case,  indeed,  amounting 
to  the  'apparent  death'  of  Pacini.  This  is  reported 
from  Como.  The  patient,  Pasquale  Ossola  by  name, 
had  to  all  appearance  died,  and  a  certificate  to  that 
effect,  after  due  consultation,  was  drawn  up  and  signed. 
Already  it  wanted  but  an  hour  or  so  to  the  interment, 
when  the  '  corpse '  began  to  move  spontaneously  and  to 
exhibit  signs  of  returning  life.  The  relatives  of  the 
supposed  dead  man  at  once  called  in  assistance,  and 
though  animation  and  consciousness,  even  to  recog- 
nition, were  restored,  the  resuscitation  was  not  main- 
tained, and  the  patient  died.  Fortunately,  the  funeral 


had  been  arranged  on  the  traditional  lines,  and  the 
faint  chance  of  return  to  life  was  not  extinguished  by 


Referring  to  the  supposed  death  of  a  girl,  Sarola, 
aged  eleven  years,  to  whom  chloroform  had  been 
administered  in  September,  1894,  under  peculiar  circum- 
stances, and  the  body  hurried  off  to  cremation,  Dr. 
Roger  S.  Chew,  of  Calcutta,  writes  : — "  That  bottle  of 
medicine  was  charged  with  having  caused  the  death 
of  little  Sarola,  who,  I  firmly  believe,  was  burned 
alive  while  in  a  cataleptic  condition  induced  by  the 
hysterical  convulsions,  and  rendered  profound  by  the 
administration  of  the  chloroform.  Surgeon  Lieutenant- 
Colonel  Edward  Lawrie  agrees  with  me  that  at  least 
ninety  per  cent,  of  the  chloroform  deaths  are  preven- 
table if  proper  measures  are  adopted  to  resuscitate  the 
body,  and  it  is  quite  possible  for  a  chloroform  anaesthetic 
to  be  launched  into  eternity  on  the  funeral  pyre  or  in 
the  suffocating  earth.  What  a  mournful  vista  Sarola's 
case  opens  up,  and  who  can  say  how  many  hundreds 
have  been  similarly  disposed  of!" — Communicated  to  the 
A  uthor. 

Sir  Benjamin  Ward  Richardson,  on  "The  Absolute 
Signs  and  Proofs  of  Death,"  in  the  Asclepiad,  first  quar- 
ter, 1889,  p.  9,  says: — "In  the  first  experiments  made 
in  this  country  with  chloral,  after  the  discovery  of  its 
effects  by  Liebreich,  we  learned  that  such  a  deep  nar- 
cotism could  be  induced  by  this  narcotic  that  it  might 
be  impossible  to  say  whether  an  animal  under  its  in- 
fluence were  alive  or  dead."  And  referring  to  cataleptic 


trance  due  to  shock,  he  observes,  p.  n,  "True  traumatic 
catalepsy  is  equally  remarkable,  and  equally  embarras- 
sing. It  has  been  witnessed  in  the  most  destructive 
form  after  shock  by  lightning,  and  it  may  also  have 
been  met  with  after  severe  blows  and  contusions  of 
the  head." 


Dr.  Chew,  referring  to  another  of  the  predisposing 
causes  of  apparent  death,  and  the  danger  of  premature 
burial  in  India,  says  : — "  In  the  cholera  season  there  is 
a  risk  of  a  soldier  being  buried  alive,  as  the  custom  is 
to  get  rid  of  the  body  as  soon  as  possible,  and  it  is  very 
seldom  indeed  that  a  post-mortem  is  held  on  a  cholera 
corpse.  If  the  case  be  one  of  true  cholera,  decomposition 
sets  in  before  the  breath  has  entirely  left  the  body,  and, 
immediately  life  is  extinct,  putrefaction  rushes  forward 
so  rapidly  as  to  render  a  mistake  impossible  ;  but  in 
choleraic  diarrhoea  or  the  lighter  forms  of  cholera  it  is 
possible  that  coma  resultant  on  extreme  collapse  may 
suspend  animation  so  as  to  simulate  real  death  without 
actual  cessation  of  vital  energy,  and  lead  to  live  sepulture, 
except  where,  by  some  such  lucky  accident  as  the  burial 
ground  being  a  long  journey  off,  the  funeral  is  delayed 
sufficiently  to  give  a  chance  of  recovery.  And  this 
same  accident  may  prove  a  salvation  in  syncope  or 
coma  from  shock  or  protracted  illness. 

"  With  the  civil  population,  save  in  very  exceptional 
cases,  there  is  very  little  chance  of  recovery  from 
apparent  death,  as  the  time  between  alleged  decease 
and  sepulture  is  very  short  indeed  ;  and  unless  there 
are  unmistakable  signs  of  trance,  syncope,  or  coma,  the 
victim  must  die  after  he  (or  she)  has  been  buried  alive." 



Dr.  Brouardel,  Professor  of  Medical  Jurisprudence, 
Paris,  mentions  a  case  which  came  under  his  own  eyes 
while  he  was  house-physician  at  La  Pitie.  He  says  : — 
"  A  little  bricklayer,  aged  thirteen,  was  brought  in 
one  day,  who  had  fallen  from  the  sixth  story  to  the 
pavement.  The  accident  happened  in  the  Rue  de  la 
Tournelle.  The  boy  had  been  taken  to  a  chemist,  who 
pronounced  him  to  be  dead,  and  sent  him  on  to  the 
hospital.  The  director  refused  to  admit  him,  as  he  was 
dead.  Now,  either  by  intuition  or  else  to  bamboozle  the 
director,  I  stated  that  the  lad  was  alive,  although  sounds 
of  the  heart  could  not  be  heard  on  auscultation.  I  had 
him  put  into  a  mustard  bath,  and,  to  my  delight,  he 
came  to.  He  had  received  no  wound,  nor  any  definite 
injury,  only  he  remembered  nothing."  The  writer  adds — 
"  He  might  have  been  buried  alive." 


M.  Bourneville  cites  the  case  of  an  old  woman  found 
in  the  street,  who  no  longer  breathed  or  gave  any  sign 
of  life.  Rectal  temperature  was  77°  F.  She  was  taken 
to  hospital,  where  energetic  treatment  was  employed, 
and  she  was  restored  to  life.  M.  Laborde  also  mentions 
a  case  of  a  man  picked  up  in  a  lifeless  condition  at  the 
gate  of  the  Bicetre.  His  rectal  temperature  was  75°  F. 
He  eventually  recovered. 


Living  burials  take  place  because  the  general  public 
are  ignorant  of  the  fact  that  there  are  many  (some 


thirty)  diseases,  and  some  states  of  the  body  that  cannot 
be  called  diseases,  as  well  as  a  number  of  incidents  and 
accidents,  which  produce  all  the  appearances  of  death 
so  closely  as  to  deceive  any  one. 

Excessive  joy  or  excessive  grief  will  often  paralyse 
the  nervous  system,  including  the  action  of  the  heart 
and  the  respiratory  functions,  and  occasion  the  appear- 
ance of  sudden  death  ;  as  well  as  shocks,  blows  upon 
the  head,  fright,  strokes  of  lightning,  violent  displays  of 
temper ;  also  certain  drugs  now  in  common  medical 
use,  such  as  Indian  hemp,  atropia,  digitalis,  tobacco, 
morphia,  and  veratrum.  According  to  Dr.  Leonce  Lenor- 
mand,  in  "  Des  Inhumations  Precipitees,"  pp.  85-104,  the 
following  diseases  and  conditions  not  infrequently  pro- 
duce the  like  symptoms,  viz.,  apoplexy,  asphyxia,  cata- 
lepsy, epilepsy,  nervous  exhaustion,  ecstasy,  haemorrhage, 
hysteria,  lethargy,  syncope,  tetanus,  etc, 

Dr.  Hartmann  observes: — "  The  cases  in  which  persons 
apparently  dead  have  been  restored  to  health  by  appro- 
priate means  are  innumerable,  and  such  accounts  may 
be  added  to  without  end,  as  they  are  of  daily  occurrence, 
while  it  is  also  self-evident  that,  if  they  had  not  thus 
been  saved,  premature  burial  and  death  in  the  coffin 
would  have  taken  place.  But  it  also  often  happens  that 
cases  of  apparent  death  recover  spontaneously,  and  even 
after  all  possible  means  taken  for  the  restoration  of  life 
have  failed.  This  is  specially  the  case  in  catalepsy,  due 
to  nervous  exhaustion,  which  requires  no  other  remedy 
than  sufficient  rest  for  the  recuperation  of  the  life-power, 
which  no  kind  of  medicine  can  supply." 



THE  following  are  some  of  the  facts  and  experiences 
which  were  brought  to  the  author's  notice  during  a  visit 
to  India  in  the  early  part  of  1896. 


On  February  9,  1896,  I  visited  the  Burning  Ghat  on 
the  banks  of  the  Ganges,  Calcutta,  where  twenty  bodies 
are  reduced  to  ashes  by  fire  daily.  The  corpse  of  an 
aged  Hindu  woman  had  just  been  brought  in  on  my 
arrival ;  death,  we  were  told,  having  occurred  but  an 
hour  before.  The  deputy  registrar  asked  the  nearest 
relative  a  few  questions  as  to  the  age,  caste,  next  of  kin, 
cause  of  death,  which  were  duly  recorded  in  a  book  kept 
for  that  purpose,  and  the  charges  having  been  paid,  the 
body,  which  was  as  supple  as  in  life  (and  except  for 
want  of  volition  bore  no  visible  marks  of  death),  was 
placed  upon  the  logs,  which  were  alternately  crossed  over 
each  other,  other  logs  being  placed  on  the  top  of  the 
body,  with  straw  underneath.  The  family  being  poor 
in  this  case,  no  expensive  spiced  oils,  ghee,  or  sandal 
wood  were  used.  The  pyre  having  been  sprinkled  with 
water  from  the  sacred  river,  the  nearest  male  relative 
took  a  wisp  of  lighted  straw  and  ran  seven  times  round 


it,  shouting,  "  Ram,  Ram,  sach  hai "  (the  god  Ram  is 
true  and  great  indeed).  He  then  applied  the  torch, 
which  in  a  few  seconds  reached  the  body,  while  a  Hindu 
priest  recited  verses  from  the  Vedas.  The  process  of 
burning  occupied  about  four  hours.  Two  other  bodies, 
one  an  adult,  and  the  other  a  child,  were  nearly  burnt  to 
ashes  during  my  visit. 


It  appears  that  in  India,  when  the  body  is  motionless, 
and  assumes  a  death-like  appearance,  as  in  trance  or 
catalepsy,  no  attempt  is  ever  made  at  resuscitation,  no 
matter  how  suddenly  or  unexpectedly  the  supposed 
death  may  occur,  nor  is  there  any  proper  method 
of  examination  for  the  purpose  of  death-certification- 
Amongst  the  Hindus  death  is  not  considered  an  evil, 
but  is  the  gate  leading  to  a  better  and  happier  world. 
Many  Hindus,  when  ill,  are  carried  by  their  friends  to 
the  banks  of  the  sacred  Ganges,  where  they  meet  death 
with  much  hope,  and  without  fear. 

At  the  General  Hospital,  Colombo,  I  was  told  by  Dr. 
Van  Lagenberg  that  there  was  absolutely  no  protection 
against  premature  burials  for  persons  subject  to  trance, 
as,  although  according  to  the  law  medical  certification 
was  obligatory,  medical  examination  was  not ;  the 
doctor  taking  the  word  of  the  friends  as  to  the  fact  of 
death,  and  certifying  accordingly.  Early  burial  (about 
six  hours  after  death)  was  the  rule.  The  Mother 
Superior  to  the  staff  of  nurses  mentioned  the  case  of 
the  venerable  Father  Vestarani,  an  aged  Catholic  priest 
of  Colombo,  who  was  subject  to  attacks  of  epilepsy ; 


these  were  followed  by  apparent  death,  and  he  had 
several  narrow  escapes  from  premature  burial.  This 
case  was  also  known  to  my  friend,  Mr.  Peter  de  Abrew, 
of  Colombo,  and  others.  The  house  surgeon,  Dr.  H.  M. 
Fernando,  said  that  amongst  the  Moslems  burial  followed 
apparent  death  very  quickly,  sometimes  in  an  hour. 


From  Mr.  Vira  Raghava  Chri,  of  Madras,  manager  of 
the  Hindu,  I  learned  that  the  Brahmins  always  burn  the 
dead  soon  after  death  occurs.  The  relatives,  if  they 
reside  within  easy  reach,  are  sent  for.  The  body  is 
washed  in  cold  water,  and  after  two  or  three  hours  the 
religious  service  begins,  which  is  performed  by  the 
priests,  and  consists  of  citations  from  the  Vedas,  having 
reference  to  the  departure  of  the  soul  from  the  body, 
and  to  the  lessons  the  solemn  event  teaches.  These 
ceremonies  generally  last  for  two  or  three  hours,  after 
which  the  body  is  taken  to  be  burned.  In  answer  to 
my  inquiries  as  to  what  would  happen  if  within  that 
time  no  sign  of  decomposition  was  exhibited,  Mr.  Chri 
informed  me  that  under  no  circumstances  would  they 
wait  for  more  than  six  hours  before  the  body  was  taken 
to  be  burned.  He  had  heard  of  cases  of  persons  declared 
to  be  dead  coming  to  life  while  being  carried  to  the 
funeral  pyre,  when  they  were  restored  to  and  welcomed 
by  their  friends.  Cases  were  also  known  of  the  corpse 
sitting  up  amidst  the  flames,  and  being  beaten  down  by 
those  in  charge  of  the  funeral.  They  were  believed  to 
be  the  victims  of  premature  cremation.  He  thought, 
however,  that  such  cases  were  rare  amongst  his  co- 


Mr.  Mohan  Chunder  Roy,  M.B.,  of  Benares,  said  that 
it  was  a  very  difficult  matter,  even  for  a  medical  prac- 
titioner, to  distinguish  the  living  from  the  dead,  and 
where  there  were  no  signs  of  putrefaction,  it  was  his 
custom  to  advise  the  relatives  to  wait  before  burial,  or 
before  sending  the  body  to  the  burning  ghat,  which  they 
were  very  reluctant  to  do.  When  apparent  revivals  to 
consciousness  occurred  on  the  pyre,  the  superstitious 
people  believed  that  it  was  due  to  the  presence  of  evil 
spirits,  and  the  attempt  to  escape  is  frustrated  by 
cremators  in  charge  of  the  burning  ghat.  This  bar- 
barous custom  has  been  repeatedly  affirmed  to  me  by 
intelligent  natives  as  a  matter  of  common  notoriety. 

One  reason  why  Hindus  are  hurried  to  the  cremation 
ground  so  quickly,  and  without  waiting  to  see  whether 
the  case  is  one  of  trance  or  suspended  animation,  is  that 
the  relatives  are  not  allowed  either  to  eat  or  drink  while 
the  body  remains  in  the  house.  If  a  person  touches  any 
article  in  the  house  of  mourning,  that  article  must  be 
washed  and  purified.  After  the  cremation  all  the  rela- 
tives purify  themselves  by  bathing  before  they  are  allowed 
to  eat  or  drink. 


Mr.  Durga  Prasad,  editor  of  the  Harbinger,  Lahore, 
writes,  February  29,  1896: — "I  recollect,  when  about 
twelve  years  old,  my  grandmother,  who  was  held  in 
great  esteem  for  her  piety  and  experience,  told  me  that 
she  was  once  declared  to  be  dead,  and  was  therefore 
carried  to  our  crematorium,  or  burning-place  ;  but  when 
about  to  be  burnt  she  came  back  to  life." 


Mr.  Joseph,  assistant  secretary  at  the  Public  Library 
and  Museum,  Colombo,  told  the  author  that  his  father, 
owing  to  weakness  of  the  heart,  was  subject  to  frequent 
attacks  of  trance-like  insensibility.  They  passed  away 
by  simple  treatment  in  a  few  hours,  but  were  sometimes 
quite  alarming.  He  was  afraid,  owing  to  the  super- 
stitious fear  of  death  among  the  ignorant  classes  in 
Ceylon,  and  the  terror  which  keeping  a  corpse,  or  a 
person  in  a  state  of  catalepsy,  where  volition  had  ceased, 
excited,  that  many  were  buried  or  buf  ned  alive,  as  it  was 
the  custom,  particularly  amongst  the  Mohammedans, 
to  carry  the  body  away  a  few  hours  after  death.  Signs 
of  decomposition  quickly  appeared  in  a  tropical  climate, 
but  this  unequivocal  mode  of  verifying  death  was  not 
often  waited  for  by  Moslems. 


Sri  Sumangala,  the  venerable  High  Priest  of  the 
Buddhists  of  Ceylon,  and  Principal  of  the  College  for 
Buddhist  Priests,  at  an  interview  the  author  had  with 
him  in  January,  1896,  stated  that  among  the  Sinhalese 
the  chances  of  burial  or  cremation  of  the  apparently 
dead  are  not  frequent.  Their  customs  are  such  that  a 
corpse  is  seldom  or  never  removed  for  burial  or  crema- 
tion before  the  expiry  of  twenty-four  hours  after  death 
is  said  to  have  taken  place.  During  that  time  climatic 
influence  renders  signs  of  decomposition  and  putrefaction 

Only  one  case  came  under  the  observation  of  the 
venerable  theologian,  which  was  that  of  a  person  bitten 
by  a  cobra.  The  man  apparently  succumbed,  but  a 


native  specialist,  having  arrived  at  the  cemetery  just 
before  the  burial,  examined  the  case,  and  said  that  life 
was  not  extinct ',  and  saved  the  man  from  a  premature 

The  following  is  from  the  British  Medical  Journal, 
April  26,  1884,  p.  844:— 


"The  Times  of  India,  for  March  21,  has  the  following  story:  — 
On  last  Friday  morning  the  family  of  a  Goanese,  named  Manuel, 
aged  seventy  years,  who  had  been  for  the  last  four  months  suffer- 
ing from  dysentery,  thinking  that  he  was  dead,  made  preparations 
for  his  funeral.  He  was  placed  in  a  coffin  and  taken  from  his 
house,  at  Worlee,  to  a  chapel  at  Lower  Mahim,  preparatory  to 
burial.  The  priest,  on  putting  his  hand  on  the  man's  chest,  found 
his  heart  still  beating.  He  was  thereupon  removed  to  the  Jamset- 
jee  Jejeeboy  Hospital,  where  he  remained  in  an  unconscious  state 
up  to  a  late  hour  on  last  Friday  night,  when  he  died." 


In  a  communication  to  the  author  from  Mr.  Nasarvariji 
F.  Billimoria,  dated  March  14,  1896,  the  writer  says 
that  where  cases  of  premature  burning  have  occurred  in 
India,  the  relatives  are  unwilling  to  have  the  facts 
published,  and  shrink  from  making  them  known. 
Moreover,  when  persons  have  been  once  declared  dead, 
and  have  been  rejected  by  their  friends  in  the  land  of 
shadows,  and  have  returned  to  this  life,  they  are 
believed  to  brin^r  misfortune  with  them,  and  discredit  is 


attached  to  the  families  in  consequence.  Mr.  Billimoria 
says  the  following  cases  can  be  relied  upon  as 
authentic  :— 

"In  the  year  18 — ,  in  the  town  of  B ,  a  Marwari  was  taken 

as  dead,  and  carried  to  the  cremation-ground.     Unfortunately,  at 


that  time  a  superstition  was  prevalent  among  all  classes  of  Indians 
that,  if  a  dead  one  is  brought  back  to  his  or  her  house,  a  plague 
would  break  out  in  the  town.  When,  therefore,  the  Marwari  sur- 
vived, instead  of  bringing  him  back  to  the  house,  or  even  allowing 
him  to  roam  elsewhere,  he  was  killed,  it  is  said,  by  a  hatchet,  which 
they  were  in  the  habit  of  carrying  with  them  to  break  the  fuel  for 
the  funeral  pyre.  This  had  happened  in  the  old  Gaekwari  days 
when  Governments  did  not  interfere  in  the  superstitious  customs 
of  the  people." 

Fortunately,  however,  those  days  are  gone,  and  with 
them  the  old  superstitions.  Some  time  ago  a  fisher- 
woman,  after  taking  a  liberal  dose  of  alcoholic  drink 
and  opium,  was  found  (apparently)  dead  by  her  rela- 
tives— low-caste  Hindus.  No  time  is  lost  among  the 
Hindus,  high  or  low  caste,  to  remove  the  body  to  the 
cremation  ground  after  a  man  is  found  dead. 

"A  bamboo  bier  was  being  prepared  to  carry  the  fisherwoman 
to  the  Samashdn  (cremation  ground),  upon  which  the  body  was 
laid  as  usual,  and  the  relatives  were  to  lift  it  to  their  shoulders  : 
when,  lo  !  the  woman  turned  herself  on  the  bier  on  her  side,  and, 
thanks  to  the  good  sense  of  the  fisherman,  she  is  still  enjoying  her 
life  while  I  am  writing. 

"  A  young  daughter  of  a  Bania  was  sick  for  a  long  time,  and  was 
found  apparently  dead  by  her  relatives,  and  carried  to  the  Sama- 
shdn. These  grounds  are  generally  situated  at  a  river  side.  When 
the  bier  was  prepared  for  certain  ceremonies,  the  girl  showed  signs 
of  revival,  and,  one  by  one,  the  relatives  would  go  near  the  bier, 
bend  down,  stare  at  the  face,  and  retire  aghast.  Information  had 
reached  the  town  that  the  girl  had  survived  ;  but  the  body,  never- 
theless, was  cremated,  and  never  brought  back  to  the  house.  It  is 
believed  that  in  this  case,  although  the  girl  had  revived  for  a  little 
time,  she  had  died  soon  afterwards,  as  she  had  been  ill  for  a  long 
time  previously.  Granting  that  this  was  a  case  in  which  the  dying 
became  actively  conscious  a  few  minutes  before  real  death,  it  is 


certain  that  great  and  indecent  haste  was  practised  by  the  relatives 
in  pressing  on  the  cremation,  as  is  the  usual  mode  in  India." 


The  Bombay  Guardian,  January  n,  1896,  reports  : — 

"A  Brahmin  went  to  Poona,  to  attend  the  National  Congress. 
He  was  laid  up  with  fever,  became  dangerously  ill,  and  fell  into  a 
trance.  His  friends,  thinking  him  dead,  made  the  necessary 
arrangements  for  the  funeral.  They  took  the  supposed  dead  man 
to  the  river  to  be  burned,  but  just  as  the  funeral  procession 
arrived  near  the  Shane  temple  his  head  and  hands  were  seen 
moving.  The  cloth  having  been  removed  from  his  face,  he  opened 
his  eyes  and  tried  to  speak.  He  was  taken  home." 

The  subject  of  hasty  and  premature  burials  in  India 
might  with  much  profit  be  introduced  at  the  National 
Congress.  The  author  believes  that  thousands  of  people 
are  annually  buried  and  burned  in  a  state  of  suspended 
animation — particularly  in  places  where  cholera,  small- 
pox, and  other  devastating  plagues  prevail.  It  is  usual 
both  amongst  the  Parsees  and  the  Hindus,  to  begin 
preparations  for  the  religious  ceremonies  when  the  case 
is  considered  hopeless. 

Dr.  Roger  S.  Chew,  of  Calcutta,  who  for  some  years 
occupied  the  position  of  army  surgeon  in  India,  writes 
to  the  author  : — "  Though  there  is  every  risk  of  live 
interment  with  those  classes  who  bury  their  dead,  this 
is  a  risk  (save  in  cases  of  epidemic  or  battlefield)  the 
British  soldier  never  runs  in  India,  where  the  military 
law  requires  that  a  post-mortem  examination,  not  earlier 
than  twelve  hours  after  decease,  must  be  held  on 
every  soldier  who  dies  from  any  cause  except  a  highly 


contagious  or  infectious  disease."  In  the  present  un- 
satisfactory state  of  the  law  might  not  this  safeguard 
be  generally  adopted? 


On  Sunday,  March  15,  1896,  my  daughter  and  I 
were  accompanied  to  the  Towers  of  Silence,  situated  on 
the  highest  part  of  Malabar  Hill,  Bombay,  by  Mr.  Phiroze 
C.  Sethna,  a  highly  accomplished  Parsee  merchant,  to 
whom  we  were  indebted  for  many  acts  of  kindness 
during  our  sojourn  in  the  city.  The  position  is  one 
of  rare  beauty,  commanding  as  it  does  charming 
panoramic  views  of  Bombay  and  the  surrounding  neigh- 
bourhood, while  immediately  below  are  extensive  cocoa 
and  other  tropical  plantations.  At  the  entrance  to  the 
towers  is  a  notice-board  in  English,  stating  that  none 
but  Parsees  are  admitted.  We  passed  under  the  porch 
into  the  sacred  enclosure,  and  found  ourselves  in  the 
midst  of  a  lovely  garden  planted  with  choice  shrubs 
and  trees,  and  were  each  presented  by  the  gardener 
with  bouquets  of  freshly-cut  flowers. 

The  towers  are  five  in  number,  the  smallest  having 
been  erected  in  1669,  all  modelled  after  the  same  pat- 
tern, and  are  about  twenty-five  feet  high.  Inside  is 
a  cbcular  platform  about  three  hundred  feet  in  circum- 
fertwce  paved  with  large  slabs,  and  divided  into  rows 
of  shallow  open  receptacles  in  which  the  bodies  are 
placed.  There  are  three  sections — for  males,  females, 
and  children.  We  noticed  a  number  of  vultures  sitting 
on  the  adjacent  trees,  and  were  informed  that,  when  a 
funeral  is  on  its  way,  large  numbers  congregate  upon 


the  coping  of  the  tower,  ready  to  seize  the  body  and 
devour  it  the  moment  it  is  deposited  by  the  corpse- 
bearers  on  the  slabs,  after  the  conclusion  of  the  funeral 
ceremonies.  In  an  hour  or  less  the  corpse  is  completely 
stripped  of  its  flesh,  when  the  bones  are  thrown  into  a 
well.  From  a  sanitary  point  of  view  the  plan  is  pre- 
ferable to  burying  or  to  cremation,  which  last,  as  it  is 
carried  out  in  India,  is  a  slow  and  tedious  process. 
Vultures  have  never  been  known  to  attack  children,  or 
even  babies  left  by  their  mothers  tied  for  safety  to  a 
branch  of  a  tree,  and  will  not,  it  is  said,  attack  a  person 
only  apparently  dead,  as  in  a  trance  or  coma. 


Another  custom  amongst  the  Parsees  in  the  treatment 
of  their  dead  is  to  bring  a  dog  to  the  corpse  before  it  is 
removed  from  the  house,  and  another  dog  on  its  arrival 
at  the  Tower  of  Silence.  This  ceremony  is  known  as  the 
Sagdeed.  In  a  pamphlet  on  the  "Funeral  Ceremonies  of 
the  Parsees,"  by  Ervad  Jivanji  Jamshedje  Mody,  B.A., 
a  learned  priest  of  the  Parsee  cult,  with  whom  the 
author  had  the  pleasure  of  an  interview,  the  explanation 
is  that,  according  to  the  ancient  belief,  the  spotted  dog 
can  discriminate  between  the  really  and  the  apparently 
dead.  Dr.  Franz  Hartmann  and  other  writers  appear 
also  to  be  of  the  opinion,  which  the  author  considers 
highly  probable,  that  a  dog  knows  whether  his  m;  ster 
is  really  dead  or  only  in  a  trance ;  but  that  a  strange 
dog  would  be  able  to  discriminate  and  act  as  a  sentinel 
to  prevent  a  living  person  being  mistaken  for  a  dead 
one,  is  highly  improbable. 



Having  heard  of  several  cases  of  persons  taken  to  the 
Towers  of  Silence  who  recovered  consciousness  after 
being  laid  within  the  enclosure,  I  asked  Mr.  Jivanji 
Mody  what  would  happen  in  such  a  case,  and  what 
means  of  escape  there  would  be.  Mr.  Mody  replied 
that  within  the  tower  there  is  a  chain  hanging  from  the 
coping  to  the  floor,  by  which  a  person  could  draw 
himself  up  to  the  top  of  the  structure,  and  he  would  then 
be  seen  and  rescued.  In  a  neatly-constructed  model  of 
these  towers  at  the  museum,  Victoria  Gardens,  Bombay, 
no  chain  is  visible.  The  subject  of  apparent  death,  or 
suspended  animation,  and  how  to  prevent  premature 
burial,  premature  cremation,  and  premature  exposure 
in  the  Towers  of  Silence,  is  beginning  to  excite  interest 
in  some  parts  of  India.  Mr.  Ardeshar  Nowroji,  Fort, 
Bombay,  student  of  Zoroastrian  literature,  is  to  read 
a  paper  on  the  subject  before  the  Debating  Society 
at  Elphinstone  College.  Mr.  Soabjee  Dhunjeebhoy 
Wadia  is  also  studying  literature  bearing  on  the  same 

Mr.  Dadabohy  Nusserwanje,  a  Bombay  Parsee  and 
merchant,  residing  at  Colombo,  Ceylon,  informed  the 
author,  January  28,  1896,  that  he  knew  of  two  cases 
where  his  co-religionists  had  been  declared  dead,  and 
the  bodies  prepared  for  burial  (the  preparation  including 
the  long  religious  service  as  prescribed  by  their  formulas), 
who  were  only  in  a  trance.  This  was  proved  by  their 
having  come  back  to  life  when  placed  in  the  Towers 
of  Silence  in  Bombay.  It  appears  that  any  persons 
officially  and  religiously  given  over  for  dead  were 


formerly  not  allowed  to  be  restored  to  their  relatives, 
or  to  the  society  to  which  they  belonged,  as  they  were 
supposed  to  carry  with  them,  from  their  dead  associates, 
liability  to  plague  or  ill  luck,  and  they  are  consequently 
obliged  to  migrate  to  distant  parts  of  the  country.  My 
informant  said  that  this  superstition  was  so  deeply 
rooted  in  the  minds  of  the  Parsee  people  that  he  did 
not  think  a  reform  was  possible. 


Cases  of  persons  in  a  trance,  mistaken  for  dead,  are 
by  no  means  uncommon,  as  would  appear  from  the 
following  communication  from  Mr.  Nasarvariji  F. 
Billimoria,  a  Parsee  of  Bombay,  addressed  to  Dr.  Franz 
Hartmann,  and  not  previously  published  : — 

"  Several  cases  of  revival  of  the  apparently  dead  among  the 
Parsees,"  writes  Mr.  Billimoria,  "  have  come  to  my  notice. 

"A  Parsee,  whom  I  shall  call  M B ,  was  given  up  as 

dead.  The  body  was  laid  on  the  ground,  and  the  usual 
ceremonies  were  being  performed,  when,  to  the  surprise  of  the 
people  surrounding  the  body,  he  rose  and  described  some  spiritual 
experience.  He  died  long  after  this  event  took  place,  at  a  good 
old  age,  at  Bilimora,  a  town  about  eighty  miles  north  of  Bombay. 

"S ,  a  girl  of  about  ten  years,  was  also  taken  as  dead  in  the 

same  town,  and,  after  laying  her  body  on  the  ground,  prayers  were 
being  recited  by  the  priests.  She  rose  and  said  that  she  had  been 
to  some  other  land,  where  she  saw  an  old  lady  who  ordered  her 
to  go  away,  as  she  was  not  required  there  just  then.  She  died  at 
a  good  old  age  a  few  months  ago. 

"A  woman  in  the  garb  of  a  Hindu  beggar  was  some  time  ago 
in  the  habit  of  interviewing  Parsee  ladies  at  odd  times,  viz.,  at 
about  three  or  four  o'clock  in  the  morning,  at  the  same  place,  and 
asking  several  questions  pertaining  to  religion.  It  was  afterwards 


found  that  she  was  K (widow  of  a  Parsee  priest),  who  had 

apparently  died  a  short  time  before,  and,  after  revival,  had  emerged 
from  the  Tower  of  Silence,  and,  a  superstition  being  prevalent 
among  the  people  that  none  should  be  taken  back  among  us  who 
return  from  the  dead,  she  dared  not  unite  with  the  Parsees,  and 
hence  led  a  wanderers  life. 

"  In  Bombay,  too,  I  have  heard  of  some  cases  of  the  revival  of 
the  apparently  dead  among  the  Parsees,  the  principal  of  them 
being  a  lady  of  a  wealthy  family,  and  a  Parsee  who  afterwards 
•carried  on  his  profession  as  a  physician.  The  physician  was  living 
as  a  Christian  on  account  of  the  prejudice  among  the  Parsees 
before  referred  to.  He  was  called  "Mutchala  Daktar,"  z>.,  doctor 
with  big  moustache. 

"Similar  cases  had  also  occurred  in  Surat,  where  two  Parsee 
women  had  returned  from  the  Towers  of  Silence,  one  of  whom 
lived  afterwards  as  a  Sanyasini.  What  became  of  the  other  I 
cannot  say." 


"  The  funeral  ceremonies  among  the  Parsees  provide 
that,  after  the  signs  of  death  are  manifest,  the  body  be 
washed  with  warm  water,  and  laid  on  a  clean  sheet ; 
two  persons  hold  the  hands  of  the  dead  person,  joining 
themselves  by  a  paivand  of  tape.  The  priests  recite 
certain  prayers,  after  which  the  body  is  laid  on  ground 
set  apart  for  the  purpose  in  the  house.  Here  it  lies  for 
several  hours,  during  which  time  priests  recite  alternately 
certain  prayers,  while  a  fire  is  kept  alive  with  fragrant 
combustibles  near  the  body.  The  Nasasalars,  or 
corpse-bearers,  arrive  at  the  appointed  time,  when 
the  fire  is  taken  away,  and  other  manthras  or  prayers, 
which  occupy  an  hour  or  so,  are  recited  by  two  priests 
conjointly,  gazing  first  on  the  iron  bier,  and  then  on 
the  face  of  the  body.  A  procession  is  then  formed 


and  the  body  is  carried  by  the  Nasasalars  only,  the 
others  walking  in  pairs,  joining  themselves  by  holding 
a  handkerchief  in  their  hands,  several  yards  distant  from 
the  body.  The  Towers  of  Silence  are  removed  from 
the  habitations  of  mankind,  sometimes  miles  distant, 
where,  after  the  arrival  of  the  funeral  procession,  the  last 
obeisance  is  performed,  and  the  body  is  carried  into  the 
tower,  which  is  called  Dukkmdh,  the  mourners,  except 
the  Nasasalars,  remaining  outside.  The  procession 
returns  after  further  prayers.  The  towers  are  entirely 
open  from  above  to  allow  ample  sunlight,  and  to  allow 
the  carrion-birds  access  to  the  dead. 

"  From  the  foregoing  it  would  appear  that,  with  regard 
to  the  disposal  of  the  dead,  the  Parsee  system  offers 
advantages,  in  respect  of  the  revival  of  the  supposed 
dead  persons,  over  the  European  system  of  burial. 
After  real  or  supposed  death,  a  fire  is  kept  burning  near 
the  body,  the  heat  of  which  would  indirectly  assist  in 
resuscitating  those  in  a  state  of  suspended  animation. 

"If  a  man  dies  in  the  afternoon  his  body  is  not  carried 
to  the  towers  till  next  day,  and  in  that  case  the  fire  is 
kept  alive  the  whole  night  near  the  body,  two  priests 
alternately  reciting  manthras.  Some  time  is  thus  allowed 
to  intervene  between  the  supposed  death  and  the  disposal 
of  the  body  in  the  Towers  of  Silence.  There,  too,  the 
body  is  not  laid  without  Zoroastrian  ceremony.  But  in 
the  system  of  disposal  itself  we  see  another  protection, 
in  that  the  carrion-birds  do  not  touch  the  body  unless 
they  instinctively  find  evidence  of  putrefaction.  It  is  a 
fact  that  in  not  a  few  cases  persons  have  escaped  from 
the  dismal  and  terrible  fate  of  bein£  laid  alive  in  the 


Towers  of  Silence.     The  system  of  disposal  in  the  tower 


may  appear  to  non-Zoroastrians  repulsive ;  but  neither 
the  system  of  cremation  or  burial  will  give  us  back 
those  whom  they  have  once  devoured.  That  the  Parsees 
do  not  allow  those  who  have  returned  from  the  Towers 
of  Silence  to  intermingle  among  them  is  another  ques- 
tion. This  too,  however,  has  attracted  the  attention 
of  this  small  community ;  and  I  hear  that  there  is  a 
standing  order  issued  from  the  trustees  of  the  Parsee 
Panchayet  at  Bombay  to  the  Nasasalars  (the  corpse- 
bearers)  to  the  effect  that  they  would  be  rewarded  if  they 
would  give  information  or  bring  back  any  body  which 
had  been  revived  after  it  had  been  carried  to  the  Towers 
of  Silence." 


The  Parsee  custom  of  using  the  dog  is  suggestive. 
There  are  numerous  cases  on  record  where  a  dog, 
following  his  master  to  the  grave  as  one  of  the 
mourners,  has  refused  to  leave  the  grave ;  and  these 
have  been  quoted  as  a  proof  of  the  undying  love  of 
the  master's  canine  friend.  May  it  not  be  that  dogs 
are  gifted,  as  believed  by  the  Parsees,  with  another  sense 
denied  to  most  men — the  faculty  of  discerning  between 
real  and  apparent  death  ?  A  medical  correspondent 
relates  the  following  :— 

"In  Austria,  in  1870,  a  man  seemed  to  be  dead,  and  was 
placed  in  a  coffin.  After  the  usual  three  days  of  watching  over 
the  supposed  corpse,  the  funeral  was  commenced  ;  and  when  the 
coffin  was  being  carried  out  of  the  house,  it  was  noticed  that  the 
dog  which  belonged  to  the  supposed  defunct  became  very  cross, 
and  manifested  great  eagerness  towards  the  coffin,  and  could  not 
be  driven  away.  Finally,  as  the  coffin  was  about  to  be  placed  in 


the  hearse,  the  dog  attacked  the  bearers  so  furiously  that  they 
dropped  it  on  the  ground  ;  and  in  the  shock  the  lid  was  broken 
off,  and  the  man  inside  awoke  from  his  lethargic  condition,  and 
soon  recovered  his  full  consciousness.  He  was  alive  and  well  at 
last  news  of  him.  Dogs  might  possibly  be  of  use  in  deciding- 
doubtful  cases,  where  their  master  was  concerned." 

Also  the  following  : — 

"The  postmaster  of  a  village  in  Moravia  'died'  in  a  fit  of 
epilepsy,  and  was  buried  three  days  afterwards  in  due  form.  He 
had  a  little  pet  dog  which  showed  great  affection  towards  him,  and 
after  the  burial  the  dog  remained  upon  the  man's  grave  and 
howled  dismally,  and  would  not  be  driven  away.  Several  times 
the  dog  was  taken  home  forcibly,  but  whenever  it  could  escape  it 
immediately  returned.  This  lasted  for  a  week,  and  became  the 
talk  of  the  village.  About  a  year  afterwards  that  part  of  the 
graveyard  had  to  be  removed  owing  to  an  enlargement  in  building 
the  church,  and  consequently  the  grave  of  the  postmaster  was 
opened,  and  the  body  was  found  in  such  a  state  and  position  as 
to  leave  no  doubt  that  he  had  been  buried  alive,  had  returned  to 
consciousness,  and  had  died  in  the  grave.  The  physician  who 
had  signed  the  certificate  of  death  went  insane  on  that  account,, 
soon  after  the  discovery  was  made." 


EARLY  burials  are  advocated  and  defended  by  certain 
writers  on  sanitary  grounds ;  and  there  is,  no  doubt, 
something  to  be  said  for  them,  provided  the  body  shows 
unmistakable  signs  of  dissolution. 

I  have  not  unfrequently  seen  in  the  course  of  my 
professional  duties,  when  visiting  the  houses  of  the  poor, 
a  corpse  placed  in  its  coffin  in  a  corner  of  the  tiny 
sitting-room  of  a  four-chambered  hovel  in  a-  city  slum, 
where  the  family  were  having  their  meals,  and  all  day 
a  stream  of  neighbours  would  be  calling  to  gaze  upon 
the  gruesome  spectacle.  It  might  be  urged  that  such 
instances  demanded,  in  the  name  of  decency,  that  speedy 
burial  should  be  enforced,  but  do  not  such  weird 
conditions  rather  call  for  a  waiting  mortuary,  whence 
the  body  could  be  removed  until  unmistakable  signs  of 
death  set  in  ?  To  impose  a  general  rule  of  speedy  burial 
upon  Englishmen  by  Parliament,  or  upon  Americans  by 
State  Legislature,  as  has  been  urged,  would  but  add  to 
the  existing  evil  of  perfunctory  and  mistaken  diagnosis 
of  death,  and  greatly  increase  the  number  of  premature 


The  Romans  kept  the  bodies  of  the  dead  a  week 
before  burial,  lest  through  haste  they  should  inter  them 


while  life  remained.  Servius,  in  his  commentary  on 
Virgil,  tells  us — "  That  on  the  eighth  day  they  burned 
the  body,  and  on  the  ninth  put  its  ashes  in  the  grave." 
Plato  enjoined  the  bodies  of  the  dead  to  be  kept  until 
the  third  day,  in  order  (as  he  says)  to  be  satisfied  of 
the  reality  of  the  death.  Quintilian  explains  why  the 
Romans  delayed  burials  as  follows  : — "  For  what  pur- 
pose do  ye  imagine  that  long-delayed  interments  were 
invented  ?  Or,  on  what  account  is  it  that  the  mournful 
pomp  of  funeral  solemnities  is  always  interrupted  by 
sorrowful  groans  and  piercing  cries  ?  Why,  for  no 
other  reason,  but  because  we  have  seen  persons  return 
to  life  after  they  were  about  to  be  laid  in  the  grave  as 
dead."  "  For  this  reason,"  adds  Lancisi,  in  "  De  Subita 
Mort,"  lib.  i.,  cap.  15,  "the  Legislature  has  wisely 
and  prudently  prohibited  the  immediate,  or  the  too 
speedy,  interment  of  all  dead  persons,  and  especially 
of  such  as  have  the  misfortune  to  be  cut  off  by  a  sudden 

Terilli,  a  celebrated  physician  of  Venice,  in  a  treatise 
of  the  "  Causes  of  Sudden  Death,"  sect.  vi.  cap.  2, 
says  : — "  Since  the  body  is  sometimes  so  deprived  of 
every  vital  function,  and  the  principle  of  life  reduced  so 
low,  that  it  cannot  be  distinguished  from  death,  the  laws 
both  of  natural  comparison  and  revealed  religion  oblige 
us  to  wait  a  sufficient  time  for  life  manifesting  itself  by 
the  usual  signs,  peradventure  it  should  not  be,  as  yet, 
totally  extinguished  ;  and  if  we  should  act  a  contrary 
part,  we  may  possibly  become  murderers,  by  confining 
to  the  gloomy  regions  of  the  dead  those  who  are  actually 



Mr,  Cooper,  surgeon,  in  his  treatise  on  "  The  Uncer- 
tainty of  the  Signs  of  Death,"  pp.  70,  71,  had  in  his 
possession  the  following  certificate,  written  and  signed 
by  Mr.  Blau,  a  native  of  Auvergne,  a  man  of  untainted 
veracity : — <£  I  hereto  subscribe,  and  declare,  that  fifty- 
five  years  ago,  happening  to  reside  at  Toulouse  for  the 
sake  of  my  studies,  and  going  to  St.  Stephen's  Church 
to  hear  a  sermon,  I  saw  a  corpse  brought  thither  for  the 
sake  of  interment.  The  ceremony,  however,  was  delayed 
till  the  sermon  should  be  over  ;  but  the  supposed  dead 
person  being  laid  in  a  chapel,  and  attended  by  all  the 
mourners,  about  the  middle  of  the  sermon  discovered 
manifest  signs  of  life,  for  which  reason  he  was  quickly 
conveyed  back  to  his  own  house.  From  a  consideration 
of  circumstances,  it  is  sufficiently  obvious  that,  without 
the  intervention  of  the  sermon,  the  man  had  been 
interred  alive." 

Between  1780  and  1800  many  pamphlets  on  the 
subject  appeared  in  Germany  and  France.  Opposite 
sides  were  taken,  some  advocating  delay  until  putre- 
faction, others  urging  immediate  burial. 

In  1791,  Rev.  J.  W.  C.  Wolff,  in  Germany,  published 
numerous  narratives  of  narrow  escapes  from  the  grave. 

In  1792,  Rev.  Johann  Moritz  Schwager  stated  that 
he  had  preached  for  twenty  years  against  precipitate 
burials,  and  that  he  had  been  requested  to  do  so  by 
a  number  of  corporate  bodies  who  had  evidence  of  the 
danger  of  hasty  interments. 

About  1800  great  excitement  prevailed  in  Germany 
on  account  of  some  narrow  escapes  from  living  burial 


that  happened  in  high  quarters,  many  books  and  pam- 
phlets having  been  issued,  and  sermons  preached  by  the 
clergy  on  the  subject.  The  key-note  of  all  of  these  was 
the  fallaciousness  of  the  appearances  of  death,  and  that 
none  were  reliable  but  decomposition. 

About  this  period  Dr.  Herachborg,  of  Konigsberg, 
Prussia,  wrote  that  for  forty  years,  as  a  doctor,  he  had 
always  been  disgusted  with  the  practice  of  hasty 
burials  ;  and  to  show  the  ignorance  of  the  times,  he 
mentions  the  case  of  a  woman  he  kept  under  observation 
in  bed  for  three  days,  when  her  relations  took  her  out 
and  placed  her  on  the  floor,  insisting  that  she  was  dead, 
He  resisted  her  burial,  and  had  her  covered  with 
blankets  ;  so  that  by  being  kept  warm  she  recovered 
completely.  He  insisted  that  no  sign  of  death  could 
be  relied  upon. 

The  British  Medical  Journal  of  April  12,  1862,  p.  390, 
quotes  the  Gaz.  Med.  d' Orient  as  follows: — "People 
in  Constantinople  are,  in  all  probability,  not  unfrequently 
buried  alive,  in  consequence  of  the  precipitancy  with 
which  their  burial  is  performed.  If  the  person  dies 
during  the  night,  he  has  some  chance  of  escaping  prema- 
ture sepulture  ;  but  if  he  dies  during  the  day,  he  is  sure 
to  be  in  his  tomb  in  two  hours  after  he  has  drawn  his 
last  breath.  Facts  of  daily  occurrence  in  this  country, 
we  are  told,  prove  that  persons  who  were  thought  to 
have  died  during  the  night  have  recovered  before 
morning,  and  thus,  thanks  to  the  intervention  of  night, 
have  been  saved  from  being  interred  alive.  Other  facts 
of  not  unfrequent  occurrence  show  that  persons  have 
recovered  while  on  their  road  to  the  grave.  In  other 
rarer  cases,  again,  the  cries  of  the  revivified  half-buried 


ones  have  been  heard  by  the  passers-by,  and  thus  saved 
from  a  horrible  conclusion." 


In  all  countries  it  is  the  custom  amongst  the  Jews  to 
bury  their  dead,  and  apparently  dead,  quickly,  without 
taking  the  slightest  steps  for  restoration,  and  many  are 
the  catastrophes  recorded. 

In  1788,  Marcus  Hertz  wrote  strongly  against  the 
prevailing  precipitate  burials  among  the  Jews.  He 
asked  "  What  motive  could  justify  hasty  burials,"  and 
continued  : — "  The  writings  of  learned  men  and  doctors, 
of  both  early  times  and  recent  date,  describe  the  dangers 
of  precipitate  burial ;  there  is  not  a  town  in  the  world 
that  has  not  its  stones  of  revivals  in  the  grave." 

"The  Report  of  the  Royal  Humane  Society"  of  1802 
states  : — "  At  the  funeral  of  a  Jewess,  one  of  the  bearers 
thought  he  heard  repeatedly  some  motion  in  the  coffin, 
and  informed  his  friends.  Medical  assistance  being- 
obtained,  she  returned  to  her  home  in  a  few  hours, 
completely  restored." 

The  Jewish  World,  September  13,  1895,  observes:— 
"  Cases  of  trance  and  of  the  burial  of  persons  who  only 
seemed  to  be  dead,  and  of  narrow  escapes  of  others 
from  the  most  terrible  of  all  imaginable  fates,  are  not 
so  uncommon  as  most  people  suppose ;  and  while  Jews 
adhere  to  the  practice  of  interring  their  dead  within  a 
few  hours  after  their  supposed  demise,  there  will  always 
be  a  risk  of  such  horrible  catastrophes  happening,  even 
more  frequently  among  us  than  among  the  general 
community.  Here  is,  then,  really  a  matter  in  which 
some  reform  is  needed,  and  that  without  a  day's  delay. 


"  To  say  nothing  of  the  merely  human  aspect  of  this 
important  question,  to  bury  until  decomposition  has 
actually  set  in  might  possibly  be  shown  to  be  a  violation 
of  Jewish  Law.  It  is  now  commonly  admitted  that  even 
expert  medical  men  cannot  be  absolutely  certain  of 
death  until  some  signs  of  decomposition  have  shown 
themselves.  Now,  so  strict  is  the  Jewish  Law  as  regards 
the  risk  of  destroying  life,  that  it  is  prohibited  to  even 
move  or  touch  a  man  or  woman  who  is  on  the  point  of 
death,  lest  we  hasten,  by  a  moment,  their  dissolution. 
It  is,  therefore,  no  less  than  a  violation  of  the  Jewish 
laws  against  murder  to  preserve  a  custom  that  involves 
even  the  minutest  scintilla  of  risk  of  premature  burial. 
It  is  high  time  that  this  question  was  seriously  taken  up 
by  the  Jewish  clergy  and  laity."  l 

In  the  province  of  Quebec  no  interment  is  permitted 
within  twenty-four  hours,  and  the  Jews  reconcile  them- 
selves to  this  delay,  which,  however,  is  far  too  brief  to 
ensure  safety. 


The  British  Medical  Journal,  March  8,  1879,  p.  356, 
under  the  heading  of  "  Suspended  Animation,"  relates 
the  following  incident:— 

"  A  Jew,  aged  seventy,  who  had  been  ailing  for  some 
time,  apparently  died  recently  in  Lemberg,  on  a  Friday 
night,  after  severe  convulsions.  The  decease  having 
been  legally  certified,  the  body  was  put  on  a  bier, 

1  For  the  antiquity  of  the  Jewish  practice  of  early  burial,  see  appendix. 


preparatory  to  the  funeral,  which  had  to  be  deferred, 
the  next  day  being  the  Jewish  Sabbath.  Two  pious 
brethren  who  had,  according  to  their  custom,  been 
spending  the  night  in  prayer,  watching  the  dead,  were 
suddenly,  on  the  morning  of  the  Saturday,  disturbed 
from  their  devotions  by  strange  sounds  proceeding  from 
the  bier,  and,  to  their  dismay,  saw  the  dead  man  slowly 
rising,  and  preparing  to  descend  from  it,  using  at  the 
same  time  very  strong  language.  Both  brethren  fled 
very  precipitately  ;  and  one  of  them  has  since  died  from 
the  effects  of  the  fright.  It  is  hoped  by  the  Wiener 
Medicinische  Zeitung,  that  this  case  will  make  the  local 
government  watch  the  Jewish  funerals  more  carefully, 
as  it  is  known  that  the  Jews  often  bury  their  dead  very 

The   Undertakers1  Journal,  January  22,  1887,  says: — 

"The  dangers  that  may  arise  from  premature  interment 
are  illustrated  by  a  sensational  incident  which  recently 
occurred  at  Trencsin,  in  Hungary.  The  wife  of  the 
Rabbi  of  the  Jewish  Congregation  apparently  died 
suddenly  without  having  been  previously  ill.  The 
night  before  the  funeral  the  female  watcher,  sitting  in 
an  adjoining  room,  heard  a  noise  in  the  chamber  of 
death,  and  when,  stricken  with  horror,  she  ventured  to 
open  the  door,  she  found  that  the  seemingly  dead  woman 
had  risen  from  her  bier,  and  had  thrown  off  the  shroud 
by  which  she  was  covered.  By  a  fortunate  accident  the 
interment  had  been  postponed  in  consequence  of  the 
intervening  Sabbath,  otherwise  a  horrible  fate  would 
have  overtaken  the  Rabbi's  wife." 



The  Lancet,  August  23,  1884,  vol.  ii.,  p.  329,  comments 
thus  upon  the  subject  of  "  Burying  Cholera  Patients 
Alive  "  : — 

"  It  is  not  so  much  undue  haste  as  inexcusable  care- 
lessness that  must  be  blamed  for  the  premature  burying 
of  persons  who  are  not  really  dead.  Such  heedlessness 
as  alone  can  lead  to  the  commission  of  this  crime  is 
not  a  shade  less  black  than  manslaughter.  We  speak 
strongly,  because  this  is  a  matter  in  regard  to  which 
measures  ought  to  be  at  once  taken  to  render  the 
horrible  act  impossible,  and  to  dismiss  all  fear  from  the 
public  mind.  If  it  be  a  fact,  as  would  seem  to  be 
indisputable,  that  during  the  last  few  weeks  there  have 
been  cases— we  will  not  attempt  to  say  how  many  or 
how  few — of  burying  alive,  a  scandal  and  a  horror, 
wholly  unpardonable  in  the  last  quarter  of  the  nineteenth 
century,  have  to  be  faced;  and  the  sooner  the  full  truth 
is  known  and  rules  of  safety  established  the  better. 
Let  it  be  once  for  all  decided  that  measures  shall  be 
taken  to  ascertain  the  fact  of  death  before  burial.  Why 
not  revert  to  the  old  practice,  and  always  open  a  vein 
in  the  arm  after  death,  or  pass  a  current  of  electricity 
through  the  body  before  the  coffin  is  finally  screwed 
down?  It  may  be  held  that  these  unpleasant  resorts 
are  unnecessary.  We  do  not  think  they  are.  In  any 
case  enough  is  known  of  the  possibilities  of  '  suspended 
animation'  to  render  it  unsafe  to  bury  until  the  evidences 
of  an  actual  extinction  of  life  are  unmistakable  ;  and,  as 
it  is  impossible  to  wait  until  decomposition  sets  in  in  all 
cases .  of  death  from  infectious  diseases,  it  would  be 


prudent  to  adopt  what   must  certainly  be  the  least  of 

Whilst  sharing  most  fully  with  the  Lancet  its 
justifiable  indignation  at  the  scandals  which  had 
undeniably  occurred,  we,  nevertheless,  cannot  agree 
with  its  conclusion  as  to  the  impossibility  of  waiting 
until  decomposition  sets  in  in  the  case  of  infectious 
diseases.  If,  as  it  maintains,  it  is  not  possible  to  wait 
until  the  only  absolute  sign  of  death  is  manifest,  then,  in 
a  large  majority  of  cases,  there  is  no  safety,  and  those 
who  die  fatally  mutilated  by  horrible  accidents  may  be 
considered  fortunate.  The  difficulty,  we  admit,  is  of  a 
serious  nature,  particularly  for  the  poor,  and  can  only 
be  overcome  by  the  erection  of  mortuaries,  as  discussed 
in  another  chapter.  The  expedient  of  applying  the 
electric  current,  suggested  by  the  Lancet,  has  been 
proved  useless  in  cases  of  death-trance,  where  the 
patients  are  impervious  to  the  most  violent  modes  of 
cutaneous  excitation. 


It  is  well  known  that  sailors,  as  a  rule,  are  very 
superstitious  as  to  dead  bodies  remaining  on  board  ship, 
and  it  has  been  the  invariable  custom,  except  under 
very  special  circumstances,  to  drop  a  deceased  voyageur 
overboard  as  speedily  as  possible.  The  danger  attending 
such  a  practice  is  evidenced  by  the  following  circum- 
stance, communicated  by  Dr.  K.  H.  Crom,  dentist, 
Munich,  in  a  letter  dated  2Oth  June,  1899  : — 

"In  1886  or  1887  a  Mrs.  Miller  was  taken  suddenly 
ill  while  on  a  voyage  from  France  to  America.  In  spite 


of  the  efforts  of  the  ship's  surgeon,  she  continued  to 
grow  worse,  and  apparently  died,  and  was  prepared  for 
burial  at  sea  ;  but  her  husband,  although  overcome  with 
grief,  noticed  that  she  did  not  assume  the  rigidity 
characteristic  of  death,  and  accordingly  begged  the 
captain  to  defer  the  burial  until  rigor  mortis  was  noticed 
or  putrefaction  set  in.  The  captain  kindly  consented, 
and  a  strict  watch  was  kept  to  detect  any  sign  of 
returning  consciousness  or  of  putrefaction. 

"  Her  husband  was,  of  course,  a  constant  watcher,  and 
hardly  left  her  side  for  two  days  ;  and,  remarkable  as  it 
may  seem,  it  is -nevertheless  a  fact  that,  after  a  period  of 
about  forty-eight  hours,  signs  of  returning  consciousness 
were  observed.  Restoratives  were  applied,  and  in  a  short 
time  she  was  able  to  converse,  and  in  a  few  days  she  was 
to  all  appearances  as  well  as  ever.  During  her  state  of 
apparent  death,  she  was  at  times  perfectly  conscious  of 
her  surroundings,  although  unable  to  move  or  make  the 
slightest  sign  to  let  those  around  her  know  she  was  still 


It  may  be  said  that  the  dangers  which  have  been 
referred  to  in  this  chapter  are  not  so  imminent  in 
the  United  Kingdom  as  in  France,  Spain,  Portugal, 
or  even  in  the  United  States,  owing  to  the  existence 
of  a  more  temperate  climate,  and  the  longer  period 
allowed  for  burial.  This  may  be  so  and  yet  the 
danger  be  considerable.  It  must  be  remembered  that 


in  the  rural  districts  nothing  in  the  shape  of  examination 
to  establish  the  fact  of  death  is  practised  ;  while  in 
certain  parts  of  Cornwall,  throughout  the  greater  part 

THE   DANGER   IS   REAL.  185 

of  agricultural  Ireland,  amongst  the  Jews  in  all  cities 
and  towns,  as  well  as  those  who  in  all  places  are  certified 
as  having  died  of  cholera,  small-pox,  and  other  infectious 
and  epidemic  diseases,  burial  often  follows  certified  death 
quite  as  quickly  as  in  the  Continental  States  before 
mentioned.  In  all  the  public  resorts  on  the  Continent 
the  hotel-keepers,  through  an  insensate  fear  of  death 
and  the  injury  which  the  possession  of  "  a  corpse,"  dead 
or  alive,  may  do  to  their  business,  have  them  coffined 
and  disposed  of,  particularly  in  the  night,  within  a  few 
hours  of  their  supposed  death.  Dr.  D.  de  Lignieres,  in 
"Pour  ne  pas  etre  Enterre  Vivant,"  Paris,  1893,  says  he 
has  known  of  burials  under  such  circumstances  six  hours 
after  death.  This  author  says  that  these  scandalous 
homicidal  acts  are  of  everyday  occurrence,  and  that  the 
rapacious  landlords  have  no  difficulty  in  obtaining 
certificates  of  death  from  the  accommodating  mort 
verificateurs.  Every  one  who  visits  the  hotels  des  villes 
d'eaux,  des  stations  balmaires,  may  verify  (he  says)  the 
truth  of  this  statement  for  himself.  In  short  these  are 
willing  disciples  of  the  "  Latest  Decalogue  "  : — 

"Thou  shalt  not  kill  ;  but  need'st  not  strive 
Officiously  to  keep  alive." 




MANY  of  those  who  are  most  familiar  with  the  phenomena 
of  life  and  death,  including  celebrated  physicians,  men 
of  science,  and  clergymen,  knowing  that  all  the  ordinary 
signs  of  death  (referred  to  in  another  chapter)  have,  in 
practice,  sometimes  proved  delusive,  have  been  a  prey 
to  the  suspicion  that  a  fatal  mistake  is  possible  in  their 
own  case.  They  have,  therefore,  left  precise  instructions 
in  their  wills  for  various  preventives  which  experience 
has  shown  to  be  necessary,  and  in  some  instances  a 
combination  of  these,  so  as  to  make  doubly  sure  that 
they  shall  not  be  subjected,  like  thousands  of  human 
beings,  to  the  unspeakable  horrors  of  being  buried 
alive.  Such  is  the  morbid  dread  of  premature  burial 
that,  since  Count  Karnice-Karnicki's  method  of  pre- 
venting burial  alive  (which  will  be  described  later  on) 
has  been  introduced,  many  hundreds  of  persons  in 
France  have  left  directions  in  their  wills  for  his  system 
to  be  adopted  at  the  time  of  their  alleged  decease. 
Several  daily  papers  drew  attention  to  two  wills 
published  on  the  same  day,  viz.,  Aug.  13,  1903,  where 
the  testators  gave  special  directions  to  ensure  the 
certainty  of  their  demise. 

One   was   the   late   Mr.  John  Newton,  a  well-known 
silk  dyer,  of  Macclesfield,  who  asked  that  his  executor, 


on  hearing  of  his  death,  should  call  in  a  doctor  other 
than  his  regular  medical  attendant,  to  ascertain  and 
satisfy  himself,  by  any  scientific  or  other  means,  that 
life  had  left  his  body,  and  that  he  was  not  in  a  state 
of  "coma,  trance,  or  suspended  animation." 

The  second  will  was  that  of  Miss  Caroline  Townsend 
Robarts,  of  Bromley,  Kent,  in  which  the  testatrix 
desired  that  on  her  death  a  medical  man  should  cut 
an  artery  or  apply  some  other  means  to  ascertain  that 
death  was  certain,  and  to  avoid  the  danger  of  her  being 
buried  in  a  trance. 


Mr.  Horace  Wei  by,  in  his  volume  entitled  "  Mysteries 
of  Life,  Death,  and  Futurity,"  1861,  under  the  head  of 
"  Premature  Interment,"  p.  114,  says  : — "  How  prevalent 
is  the  fear  of  being  buried  alive  may  be  gathered  from 
the  number  of  instances  in  which  men  have  requested 
that,  before  the  last  offices  are  done  for  them,  such 
wounds  or  mutilations  should  be  inflicted  upon  their 
bodies  as  would  effectually  prevent  the  possibility  of  an 
awakening  in  the  tomb.  Dr.  Dibdin  relates  that  Francis 
Douce,  the  antiquary,  requested,  in  his  will,  that  Sir 
Anthony  Carlisle,  the  surgeon,  should  sever  his  head 
from  his  body,  or  take  out  his  heart,  to  prevent  the 
return  of  vitality ;  and  his  co-residuary  legatee,  Mr. 
Kerrick,  has  also  requested  the  same  operation  to  be 
performed  in  the  presence  of  his  son." 

The  late  Lady  Burton,  widow  of  Sir  Richard  Burton, 
provided  that  her  heart  was  to  be  pierced  with  a 
needle,  and  her  body  to  be  submitted  to  a  post-mortem 
examination,  and  afterwards  embalmed  (not  stuffed)  by 


competent  experts.  Lady  Burton,  it  is  said,  had  been 
subject  to  fits  of  trance  on  more  than  one  occasion,, 
and  was  terribly  afraid  that  such  an  attack  might  be 
diagnosed  as  death. 

The  Secretary  to  the  Howard  Association  says  that 
Howard,  the  philanthropist,  dreaded  premature  burial 
both  for  himself  and  others,  and  ordered  that  after 
his  death  one  or  two  of  his  veins  should  be  opened, 
and  his  burial  delayed  for  at  least  five  days. 


Bishop  Berkeley,  Daniel  O'Connell,  and  the  late 
Lord  Lytton  entertained  similar  apprehensions.  Wilkie 
Collins  had  a  like  fear,  for  he  always  left  on  his 
dressing-table  a  letter  in  which  he  solemnly  enjoined 
his  people  that  if  he  were  found  dead  in  the  morning, 
he  should  at  once  be  carefully  examined  by  a  doctor. 
Hans  Christian  Andersen  had  a  similar  dread,  and 
carried  in  his  pocket  a  note  to  the  effect  that,  when 
the  time  came,  his  friends  were  to  make  sure  that  he 
was  really  dead  before  burial.  Harriet  Martineau  left 
her  doctor  ten  pounds  to  see  that  her  head  was  am- 
putated before  burial.  The  dread  of  being  buried 
alive  dictated  a  clause  in  the  will  of  the  distinguished 
actress,  the  late  Miss  Ada  Cavendish,  for  the  severance 
of  the  jugular  vein  ;  and  prompted  the  late  Mr.  Edmund 
Yates  to  leave  similar  instructions,  with  the  provision 
that  a  fee  of  twenty  guineas  should  be  paid  for  the 
operation,  which  was  carried  out.  Mr.  John  Rose,  of 
New  York,  who  died  in  November,  1895,  made  known 
his  earnejt  desire,  that  his  coffin  should  not  be  closed, 


but  laid  in  the  family  vault  at  Roseton,  and  guarded 
day  and  night  by  two  caretakers,  who  were  instructed 
to  watch  for  signs  of  re-animation. 

A  well-known  and  eccentric  Dublin  doctor,  Dr. 
Heron,  was  found  dead  in  his  bed  at  Monkstown  in 
October,  1901,  and  pinned  to  the  bed  over  his  body 
was  the  following  note,  written  in  pencil : — "  Notice. — 
Do  not  bury  me  till  I  am  dead.  Don't  mind  the 
doctors,  unless  they  put  a  knife  through  my  heart. 
You  will  never  forgive  yourselves.  To  all  in  the 
Division  Court  when  I  may  be  thought  dead.  No 
mortal  can  tell  if  a  man  is  dead  until  he  begins  to 
rot,  or  there  is  a  good  hole  through  his  head."  Evidence 
at  the  inquest  showed  that  the  poison  was  taken  in 
•darkness  in  mistake  for  a  sleeping  draught,  and  a 
verdict  of  "  death  from  misadventure "  was  returned. 

One  of  His  Majesty's  Judges  informed  the  author 
recently,  that  he  was  so  convinced  of  the  danger  of 
premature  burial,  that  when  sojourning  in  a  strange 
city  he  made  a  practice  of  arranging  with  the  Surgeon- 
General,  or  other  trustworthy  expert,  to  see  that  life 
was  absolutely  extinct  before  the  interment  of  his 


The  Lancet,  March  17,  1886,  says  : — "There  are  many 
apparently  trustworthy  stories  afloat,  both  in  this  country 
and  on  the  Continent,  which  favour  the  belief  that 
premature  interment  not  only  does  sometimes  take 
place,  but  is  really  of  not  so  unfrequent  occurrence  as 
might  be  supposed.  Some  few  believe  it  to  be  not  an 
unlikely  event,  and  break  out  into  a  cold  perspiration 


at  the  thought  of  the  possibility  of  the  misfortune 
happening  to  themselves.  Others  have  actually  made 
provision  in  their  wills  that  means  should  be  taken,  by 
cutting  off  a  finger,  or  making  a  pectoral  incision,  etc., 
to  excite  sensibility,  in  case  any  should  remain  after 
their  supposed  death  ;  whilst  a  French  countess,  in  orcler 
to  escape  so  terrible  a  fate,  left  a  legacy  to  her  medical 
attendant  as  a  fee  for  his  severance  of  the  carotid  artery 
in  her  body  before  it  was  committed  to  the  tomb." 

Those  who  are  most  apprehensive  of  apparent  death 
being  mistaken  for  real  death  are  the  clergy  and  other 
ministers  of  religion,  and  funeral  directors — in  other 
\vords,  those  who  kno\v  the  most  about  it. 

Let  anyone  introduce  the  subject  when  in  company, 
and  startling  cases  will  Invariably  be  narrated  by  one 
and  another  sufficient  to  shake  incredulity,  and  to 
compel  us  to  realise  the  danger  to  ourselves,  as  well 
as  to  all  other  members  of  the  community,  under  our 
present  loose  customs  in  regard  to  the  treatment  of 
the  supposed  dead.  If  this  dread  of  premature  burial 
is  not  universal,  as  some  writers  and  authorities  aver,. 
it  is  certainly  widely  extended  ;  and  the  evidence  set 
before  our  readers  will  show  that  it  is  by  no  means 
without  foundation. 


The  Rev.  John  Kingston,  chaplain  R.X.,  writing  to- 
the  (London)  Morning  Post,  September  18,  1895,  says— 
"  The  danger  of  being  buried  alive  appears  to  be  a  very 
real  one  ;  and  I  can  testify,  from  my  experience  as  a 
clergyman,  that  a  great  many  persons  are  haunted  by 


the  dread  of  that  unspeakably  horrible  fate."  The 
writer  further  expresses  a  hope  that  the  ventilation  of 
the  subject  will  be  followed  by  practical  results. 

While  speaking  on  the  subject  of  premature  burials> 
in  a  lecture  delivered  at  Everett  Hall,  Brooklyn,  New 
York,  June,  1883,  Mr.  J.  D.  Beugless,  the  then  President 
of  the  New  York  Cremation  Society,  said  that  an  under- 
taker in  that  city  (Brooklyn)  recently  made  provision  in 
his  will,  and  exacted  a  promise  from  his  wife  of  great 
caution,  that  his  body  should  be  cremated,  being  induced 
thereto  by  the  fear  of  being  buried  alive.  "  Live  burials/' 
he  says,  "  are  far  more  frequent  than  most  people  think." 
It  is  reported  that  another  undertaker  of  Brooklyn  some 
time  since  deposited  a  body  in  a  receiving  vault  tempo- 
rarily :  when  he  went  some  days  later  to  remove  it  for 
burial,  what  was  his  horror,  upon  opening  the  niche  in 
which  the  coffin  had  been  placed,  to  find  the  body 
crouching  at  the  door,  stark  in  death,  the  hair  dis- 
hevelled, the  flesh  of  the  arms  lacerated  and  torn,  and 
the  face  having  the  most  appalling  expression  of  horror 
and  despair  ever  witnessed  by  mortal  eyes  ! 

CATALEPSY,  OR  -        -  ? 

An  undertaker,  writing  to  the  Plymouth  Morning 
News,  October  2,  1895,  mentions  that  he  reluctantly 
buried  a  young  person,  who  lay  in  the  coffin  for  seven 
clear  days  without  sign  of  decomposition,  and  only 
consented  to  close  the  coffin  then,  on  the  assurance  that 
the  same  conditions  attended  all  the  deaths  which  had 
previously  occurred  in  the  family.  Dr.  Hartmann  and 
other  authorities  have  found  that  such  cases  are  probably 


the  subjects  of  catalepsy,  a  malady  which  sometimes  runs 
in  families  and  affects  every  member.  The  undertaker 
adds  that,  in  future,  he  should  decline  to  close  the  coffin 
of  the  apparently  dead  until  signs  of  decomposition 
set  in,  "  thus  preventing  the  possibility  of  our  worst 
fears  being  realised."  If  undertakers  generally  would 
adopt  these  wise  and  necessary  precautions,  living 
sepulture  would  come  to  an  end.  Under  the  existing  im- 
perfect system  of  medical  examination — and,  as  we  have 
shown,  both  in  England  and  in  the  United  States,  where 
there  is  usually  no  examination  at  all — there  is  often 
a  reckless  haste  in  interments.  No  thoughtful  persons 
can  contemplate  the  burial  of  a  million  and  a  half 
human  beings  annually  in  these  two  countries  without 
mistrust  and  misgivings. 

As^  recently  as  the  I3th  January,  1904,  the  Paris 
correspondent  of  the  London  Echo  reports  a  case  from 
Valence,  where  a  young  woman  at  the  village  of  Fortes 
fell  into  a  cataleptic  state  so  deep  that  it  was  thought 
she  was  dead. 

The  usual  funeral  arrangements  were  made,  and  the 
friends  and  relations  were  taking  a  last  look  at  the 
supposed  corpse  when  it  sat  up. 

The  girl  appeared  terror-stricken  at  her  surroundings, 
and  leapt  from  the  window  to  the  pavement,  three 
storev  u<flo\* ,  and  was  killed  on  the  spot. 


As  already  pointed  out,  many  well-to-do  people  in 
civilised  countries  provide  in  their  wills  for  the  pre- 
vention of  premature  interment,  by  leaving  instructions 
for  surgical  operations  after  their  decease,  post-mortems, 


embalmment,  or  cremation.  It  may  happen,  however, 
that  wills  are  mislaid,  lost,  or  withheld  by  the  testators, 
or  are  not  opened  and  read  until  after  the  funeral,  when 
the  instructions  in  this  regard,  however  strictly  enjoined, 
are  rendered  nugatory.  Bequests  should  be  given 
conditionally  on  the  observance  of  certain  duties,  and 
only  payable  on  proofs  to  the  executors  that  they  have 
been  carried  out.  A  large  majority  of  people  do  not, 
however,  leave  testamentary  instructions,  for  the  simple 
reason  that  they  have  nothing  to  bequeath.  And  the 
majority  have  an  equal  claim  with  the  minority  to  be 
safeguarded  by  the  State  against  such  terrible  mis- 
fortunes. Syncope,  sometimes  mistaken  for  death,  is  a 
condition  to  which  both  men  and  women,  who  are 
compelled  by  their  poverty  in  all  large  cities  to  endure 
exhausting  labours  in  ill-ventilated  work-rooms,  and 
their  often  ill-nourished  children  in  board  schools  in 
England  and  in  the  public  schools  in  America,  are 
peculiarly  liable. 

In  view  of  the  ghastly  consequences  .which  may 
result  from  a  mistake  that  cannot  be  rectified  when 
the  grave  is  closed,  and  in  view  of  the  justifiable  fear 
which  is  spreading  among  intelligent  persons  as  to 
burial  alive,  the  most  stringent  State  regulations 
should  assuredly  be  enforced,  so  that  rich  and  poor 
alike  may  be  effectually  safeguarded  against  this  most 
awful  of  human  catastrophes. 




THE  idea  commonly  entertained  is  that  with  animal 
bodies  there  are  only  two  possible  conditions — either 
life  or  death  ;  that  the  presence  of  one  of  these  con- 
ditions implies  the  absence  of  the  other  ;  that  when 
the  body  has  assumed  the  appearance  of  death,  as 
during  the  sudden  suspension  of  all  the  functional 
activities,  it  must  be  dead.  This  last  is  far  from 
being  true ;  for  all  the  appearances  of  death  are 
fallacious,  especially  those  that  accompany  so-called 
sudden  death.  All  such  cases  should  be  challenged 
as  of  doubtful  character,  and  held  so  till  recover}-  or 
putrefaction  of  the  tissues  proves  the  presence  of  life 
or  of  death.  This  subject  is  too  often  treated  by 
medical  writers  with  indifference.  Technically,  it  is 
regarded  as  a  failure  of  the  brain,  or  lungs,  or  heart, 
to  perform  their  functions  ;  popularly,  we  say  that 
"the  thread  of  life  is  snapped  asunder,"  or  it  is 
"the  going  out  of  life,"  like  the  sudden  extinguishing 
of  a  candle.  Experience,  however,  teaches  that  life 
leaves  the  body  in  a  gradual  manner,  and  that  death 
approaches,  and  takes  the  place  of  life,  in  one  part 
or  organ  after  another,  thus  creeping  through  the 
tissues  and  sometimes  defying  all  tests  to  prove  its 


presence,  leaving  putrefaction  to  be  its  only  sign. 
There  can  be  no  such  thing  as  veritable  sudden  death, 
unless  the  body  is  crushed  into  a  shapeless  mass,  like 
an  insect  under  foot 


The  late  Dr.  Farr,  of  the  Registrar-General's  Depart- 
ment, London,  says :  "  No  definition  of  the  sense  in 
which  sudden  death  is  practically  understood  by 
coroners  has  been  given."  Dr.  Granville  says  :  "  The 
writers  on  medical  jurisprudence  do  not  state  with 
any  strictness  what  they  mean  by  sudden  death, 
whether  it  be  death  in  ten  minutes,  ten  hours,  or  ten 
days." l  And  he  asks  in  the  same  vein,  "  Does  sudden 
death  mean  death  in  three  minutes,  three  hours,  or 
three  days  ? " 2  Still  further  he  remarks  regarding 
the  customary  definitions,  "  They  lead  one  to  infer 
that  a  certain  mysterious  principle,  called  LIFE,  has 
been  instantaneously  withdrawn  from  a  healthy  and 
well-constituted  individual,  who  was  at  the  very 
moment,  as  heretofore,  exercising  his  proper  animal 
functions  with  a  regularity  that  promised  to  endure 
for  a  long  continuance  of  years.  .  .  .  No  such 
phenomena  occur  in  Nature,  unless  through  violence 
or  from  accident.  Under  Nature's  laws  there  is  no 
such  thing  as  sudden  death.  .  .  .  In  every  case 
where  death  has  abruptly  cut  short  the  thread  of  life, 
there  has  been  a  preparation,  more  or  less  antecedent 
to  the  occurrence,  which  must  inevitably  have  led  to 
it.  ...  The  victim  may  seem  to  have  been 

1  Dr.  A.  B.  Granville,  "Sudden  Death,"  p.  278.  2Ibid.,  p.  278. 

196  SUDDEN    DEATH. 

struck  down,  as  if  by  lightning.  But  in  reality  the 
event  was  only  the  natural  termination  of  an  inward 
state  of  things  which  insidiously  and  unexpectedly 
was  preparing  the  blow."  L 

Dr.  Tidy,  in  ';  Legal  Medicine,"  p.  29,  says  : — "  As 
a  rule,  the  action  required  to  bring  about  complete 
molecular  death — i.e.,  the  suspension  of  vital  activity 
in  every  part — is  progressive.  In  a  given  case,  there- 
fore, \ve  are  unable  to  state  any  definite  time  as  the 
period  of  its  occurrence.  The  popular  idea  of  death 
is  that  the  entire  body  dies  at  once.  Somatic  death 
is  an  impossibility." 


Thus,  it  is  clear  that  the  process  of  death,  or  the 
•departure  of  life,  may  require  days  or  weeks  for  its 
completion  ;  and  it  may  even  be  delayed  to  a  time 
when  putrefaction  has  set  in  quite  generally,  as  when 
the  hair  and  nails  grow  after  the  body  has  been  buried 
some  weeks,  as  has  been  credibly  reported.  Writers 
upon  so-called  sudden  death  recite  a  number  of  diseases 
and  conditions  which  quickly  destroy  the  machinery 
that  carries  on  the  vital  functions,  thus  rendering  resus- 
citation quite  impossible.  Tidy'^  names  some  twelve  of 
such  causes  :  prominent  among  them  are  diseases  of  the 
heart,  rupture  of  the  heart,  clots  in  the  blood  vessels, 
aneurisms,  effusions  of  blood  in  the  brain,  bursting  of 
visceral  abscesses,  ulcers  of  the  stomach,  extra-uterine 
pregnancy,  rupture  of  the  uterus  or  bladder,  large 

1  Dr.  A.  B.  Granville,  "  Sudden  Death,"  p.  279. 
a  Tidy,  "  Legal  Medicine/'  part  i.,  pp.  279-280. 


draughts  of  cold  water  taken  when  the  body  is  heated, 
cholera,  alcoholic  poisoning,  mental  emotions,  etc.  But 
he  remarks  upon  these  causes:  "Because  a- person  dies 
suddenly,  there  being  no  evidence  of  violence  or  poison, 
the  action  adopted  by  many  coroners  in  not  requiring  a 
post-mortem  examination  leaves  the  most  important  wit- 
ness— the  dead  body  itself — unheard,  and  the  inquest  so 
far  valueless."  Which  may  mean  that,  without  the  risk 
of  an  autopsy,  it  is  impossible  in  such  cases  to  determine 
whether  they  are  beyond  resuscitation  or  not,  unless 
putrefaction  settles  the  question.  Unfortunately  there 
is  nothing  in  the  external  appearance  of  those  cases  of 
so-called  sudden  death  in  which  the  vital  machinery 
may  be  totally  wrecked,  to  distinguish  them  from  those 
of  apparent  death,  in  which  all  the  organism  is  in  a 
state  of  perfect  integrity,  and  in  which  resuscitation  is 
possible,  provided  the  vital  principle  has  not  entirely 
left  the  body.  Consequently,  the  only  safe  rule  to 
observe  in  all  cases  in  which  death  has  not  followed 
poisoning,  or  injuries  which  kill  outright,  or  some  known 
disease  of  sufficient  duration  and  severity  to  bring  on 
dissolution,  is  to  wait  for  unmistakable  evidences  of 
decomposition  before  autopsy,  embalming,  cremation, 
or  burial  is  allowed. 

In  former  times  precipitate  interments  of  persons  who 
died  suddenly  were  specially  guarded  against. 


Nothing  is  more  common,  on  opening  a  newspaper, 
than  to  see  one  or  more  announcements  of  sudden 
death.  These  occurrences  are  so  frequent  that  the 
great  London  dailies,  except  when  an  inquest  is  held, 


or  when  the  deceased  is  a  person  of  note,  omit  to  record 
them.  The  narratives  are  much  alike :  the  person, 
described  to  be  in  his  usual  health,  is  seized  with  faint- 
ness  in  the  midst  of  his  daily  avocation,  and  he  falls 
down  apparently  dead  ;  or  he  retires  for  the  night,  and 
is  found  dead  in  his  bed.  In  many  instances  post- 
Hiortems  are  made  and  an  inquest  held  ;  but  in  other 
cases  the  opinion  of  the  attendant  doctor,  that  the 
death  is  clue  to  heart-disease,  syncope,  asphyxia,  coma, 
apoplexy,  or  "  natural  causes,"  is  deemed  sufficient. 
The  friends  who  are  called  in  to  look  at  the  body  will 
remark,  "  how  natural  and  how  life-like,"  "  how  flexible 
the  limbs,"  "  how  placid  the  face "  ;  and,  without  the 
faintest  attempt  at  resuscitation,  arrangements  are  made 
for  an  early  burial. 


Dr.  Alexander  Wilder,  Professor  of  Physiology  and 
Psychology,  in  a  letter  to  the  author,  says  :  "  There 
are  a  variety  of  causes  for  sudden  death.  The  use  of 
tobacco  is  one.  Another  is  overtaxed  nervous  system. 
Men  of  business  keep  on  the  strain  till  they  drop  from 
sheer  exhaustion.  At  the  base  of  the  brain  is  a  little 
nerve  -  ganglion,  the  medulla  oblongata,  which,  once 
impaired,  sends  death  everywhere.  Overtaxing  the 
strength  by  study  and  mental  stress  will  do  this.  The 
solar  ganglion  below  the  diaphragm  is  the  real  vital 
focus  of  the  body.  It  is  first  to  begin,  last  to  die.  A 
blow  on  it  often  kills.  An  emotion  will  paralyse  it. 
Even  undue  excess  at  a  meal,  or  the  use  of  overmuch 
alcohol,  may  produce  the  effect. 


"  Tobacco  impairs  the  action  of  the  heart.  An  over- 
full stomach  may  paralyse  the  ganglionic  centre,  and 
breathing  is  liable  to  stop.  It  is  dangerous  in  such 
cases  to  lie  on  the  back.  All  these  deaths  are  by 
heart-failure."  It  is  syncope  where  the  heart  fails  first ; 
asphyxia  where  the  lungs  are  first  to  cease  ;  coma  when 
the  brain  is  first  at  fault.  "Natural  causes"  and  "heart- 
failure  "  usually  mean,  like  "  congestion,"  that  the 
doctor's  ideas  are  vague. 

Dr.  Wilder  continues  : — "  I  would  choose  such  a  death 
if  I  could  be  sure  it  was  death.  But  most  of  those  things 
which  I  have  enumerated  may  cause  a  death  which  is  only 


The  following  briefly  extracted  cases  from  English 
papers  are  typical  of  thousands  of  others,  and  can  be 
duplicated,  with  slight  variation  in  terms,  throughout 
the  United  States.  The  absolute  proof  of  the  reality 
of  such  deaths  is  not  found  in  hasty  diagnosis  or  in 
medical  certificates,  but  in  the  presence  of  putre- 
faction :— 


"On  Wednesday  evening  last,  Mr.  A.  N.  Laughton,  High  Bailiff, 
held  an  inquest  on  the  body  of  John  Cringle,  of  Glenmaye. 
Deceased  was  employed  as  second  hand  on  board  the  lugger 
"Choice,"  awaiting  fair  weather  before  proceeding  to  Kinsale. 
On  Tuesday  night  the  deceased  went  on  board  the  boat  about 
eleven  o'clock,  seemingly  in  good  health  and  the  best  of  spirits, 
and  instead  of  going  to  bed  he  remained  lying  on  the  locker. 
Nothing  was  heard  during  the  night  to  cause  alarm,  but  the  \ 
cook,  on  going  to  rouse  him  early  in  the  morning,  found  him 
dead.  Dr.  Cell  was  sent  for,  but  found  he  had  been  dead  for 
some  time. 

200  SUDDEN    DEATH. 

"At  the  inquest,  which  was  held  on  Wednesday  evening,  Dr, 
Cell  gave  evidence,  stating  that  death  had  been  caused  by 
failure  of  the  heart.  The  jury  returned  in  accordance  with 
medical  testimony.  It  seems  a  great  pity  that  there  is  not  a 
proper  mortuary  in  town,  but  that  the  body  should  be  placed 
anywhere.  We  think  it  high  time  something  should  be  done 
to  procure  one." — Manx  Sun,  April  4,  1903. 


"A  painfully  sudden  death  occurred  at  Foleshill  on  Sunday 
evening.  Mrs.  Pearman  was  preparing  to  go  for  a  walk.  She 
went  upstairs,  leaving  some  friends  below.  As  she  appeared  to 
be  absent  rather  a  long  time,  and  as  her  movements  could  not 
be  heard,  someone  in  the  house  called  to  her.  No  answer  was 
received,  and,  on  a  visit  being  paid  to  the  bedroom,  she  was 
found  lying  on  the  floor  dead.  The  doctor  was  called,  but  he 
could  only  pronounce  life  extinct.  Deceased,  who  was  about  6r 
years  of  age,  is  stated  to  have  been  as  well  as  usual  lately,  and 
had  not  been  medically  attended  for  five  years." — Midland  Daily 
Telegraph,  April  6,  1903. 


"On  Thursday  morning,  a  boy  named  Howard  Leslie  Pearsonr 
aged  thirteen  years  and  seven  months,  the  son  of  Mr.  Walter 
Ernest  Pearson,  clerk,  residing  at  29  York  Road,  Grays,  died 
suddenly  at  his  father's  residence.  It  appears  that  in  the  morning 
deceased  went  to  school  apparently  in  his  usual  health,  but  about 
half-past  eleven  he  became  unwell,  and  was  sent  home  by  the 
master.  As  his  condition  became  worse,  medical  aid  was  sum- 
moned by  the  parents,  but  the  poor  lad  expired  before  the  doctor 
arrived."— Essex  Times,  April  15,  1903. 


"On  arriving  home  at  Disley,  John  Hill  discovered  his  wife 
Mary  dead  in  an  outhouse.  Deceased,  who  was  50  years  of  age, 
was  quite  well  when  her  husband  left  home  in  the  morning.  She 
ate  a  good  breakfast  with  her  husband  on  Monday  morning,  and 
then  prepared  herself  to  go  shopping.  Her  husband  left,  and 


on  returning  home,  on  going  to  the  outbuildings,  he  found  his 
wife  quite  dead.  Death  is  supposed  to  have  taken  place  from 
heart  disease  or  apoplexy." — Manchester  Weekly  Chronicle,  April 
1 8,  1903. 


"About  half-past  four  o'clock  on  Saturday  afternoon,  Sutcliffe 
Haigh,  mill-hand,  of  No.  2  Bank  End,  Nettleton  Hill,  Longwood, 
and  his  wife  (Ann  Haigh),  went  to  a  tea  party.  After  tea  they 
went  for  a  walk,  and  about  seven  o'clock  Mrs.  Ann  Haigh 
suddenly  fell  to  the  ground.  Her  husband  raised  her  head  on 
his  knee.  She  breathed  heavily,  and  died  in  a  few  minutes.  The 
deceased  had  been  in  good  health."  —  Huddersfield  Examiner, 
April  27,  1903. 


"A  Guiseley  reservist  named  George  Gedgeington,  employed  by 
the  Midland  Railway  Company,  was  found  dead  in  bed  yester- 
day morning.  The  previous  evening  he  had  retired  to  rest  in 
apparently  the  best  of  health.  Medical  opinion  was  that  death 
was  due  to  natural  causes.  He  was  29  years  of  age." — Leeds 
Mercury,  April  27,  1903. 


"A  girl  named  Agnes  Dennis,  residing  with  her  parents  in 
Coatbridge,  was  discovered  dead  in  bed  last  night.  The  girl  was 
in  the  best  of  health,  and  during  the  night  had  not  complained. 
Dr.  Cordiner  saw  the  body,  and  attributed  death  to  natural  causes." 
— Glasgow  Evening  Times,  May  5,  1903. 


"A  painfully  sudden  death  occurred  to  Mr.  Thomas  G.  Ginns, 
the  steward  of  the  Working  Men's  Club,  early  on  Wednesday 
morning.  Ginns,  who  was  at  play  at  cricket  on  Tuesday  after- 
noon, was  in  excellent  spirits,  and  appeared  all  right,  and  attended 
to  his  duties  up  to  closing  time  as  usual.  He  went  to  bed 
apparently  in  as  good  health  as  usual." — Northampton  Daily 
Reporter,  June  3,  1903. 



"The  death  of  Mr.  William  Murray  Maxton,  chemist,  Abbey 
Corner,  Kelso,  occurred  very  suddenly  on  Saturday  last.  De- 
ceased, who  was  a  man  of  middle  age,  was  in  his  usual  health  and 
at  business  on  the  previous  day,  and  next  morning  he  was  found 
dead  in  bed.  A  short  time  ago  he  sustained  a  slight  injury  to  one 
of  his  arms,  but  it  is  not  thought  that  this  contributed  in  any  way 
to  his  death,  which  was,  we  understand,  attributed  to  syncope. "- 
Kclso  Mail,  July  2,  1903. 


"The  sudden  death  of  Mrs.  Ruth  Shepherd,  formerly  of  Deer- 
play,  occurred  on  Monday  evening.  Deceased  appeared  in  good 
health  about  nine  o'clock  the  same  evening,  and  was  standing  in 
the  farmyard  when  she  was  taken  suddenly  ill,  and  nearly  fell  to 
the  ground.  She  was  carried  into  the  house,  and  the  doctor  sent 
for,  but  she  died  at  10.30,  in  the  presence  of  two  neighbours  who 
had  been  called  in.  When  Dr.  Helm  arrived,  he  pronounced  life 
extinct,  and  attributed  the  cause  of  death  to  a  stroke.  On  Wednes- 
day noon  an  inquest  was  held  at  Deerplay  Inn,  before  Mr.  J. 
Robinson,  Mr.  Atkinson  being  foreman  of  the  jury.  A  verdict 
of  death  from  natural  causes  was  returned." — Rossendale  Free 
Press,  July  4,  1903. 


"A  young  woman  named  Florence  ^Matilda  Evans,  aged 
eighteen,  who  lives  with  her  parents  in  4  Constellation  Street, 
Cardiff,  died  under  remarkable  circumstances  on  Friday  night. 
She  went  to  bed  about  a  quarter  past  ten,  apparently  in  good 
health.  She  did  not  complain  of  feeling  unwell,  and  had  not 
been  attended  by  a  doctor.  Yet,  three-quarters  of  an  hour  later, 
her  mother  went  into  the  bedroom  and  found  her  dead.  It 
was  a  great  shock  to  Mrs.  Evans,  who  had  no  suspicion  that 
her  daughter  was  ailing.  Dr.  Blight,  of  Newport  Road,  was 
immediately  called  in,  and  examined  the  body.  The  probability 
is  that  death  was  due  to  natural  causes." — South  Wales  Daily 
News,  August  3,  1903. 



"'The  death  is  recorded  of  Henry  Ridley,  a  twister,  about  37 
years  of  age,  who  lived  at  4  Marpeth  Street.  He  was  a  single 
man,  and  for  the  last  seven  years  had  been  healthy  and  worked 
regularly.  Yesterday  afternoon,  whilst  at  work  at  a  mill  in 
Trafalgar  Street,  he  was  seen  to  fall  from  his  stool,  and,  when 
picked  up,  life  was  found  to  be  extinct." — Blackburn  Star,  Sep- 
tember 4,  1903. 


"  Mr.  Hill'  attended  at  Hebden  Bridge  for  the  purpose  of  inquir- 
ing into  the  circumstances  attending  the  death  of  Mrs.  Amos 

"Amos  Crossley,  carter,  Mitchell  Street,  Fairfield,  said  deceased 
was  his  wife,  and  was  36  years  of  age.  She  had  enjoyed  very  good 
health.  She  never  had  attacks  of  fainting.  Her  breathing  had 
not  been  at  all  troublesome.  He  last  saw  her  alive  about  seven 
o'clock  on  Thursday  morning,  when  they  had  breakfast  together. 
She  seemed  very  well  then. 

"Robert  Newbury  West,  locum  tcnens  to  Dr.  Cairns,  said  that 
he  was  called  to  see  deceased  about  half-past  twelve,  and  he 
found  her  laid  on  the  floor  when  he  arrived.  She  was  quite  dead. 
There  was  congestion  round  the  neck,  and  the  lips  were  livid. 
That  pointed  to  hemorrhage  on  the  brain,  or  apoplexy. 

"The  Coroner — She  was  rather  young  for  that  ? 

"Witness — She  was  young,  certainly,  but  there  might  be  diseased 
arteries.  The  circumstances  pointed  to  syncope  or  apoplexy,  but 
from  the  appearance  of  the  deceased  the  latter  was  the  more 
probable.  He  did  not  notice  whether  she  had  anything  in  her 
mouth  or  not. 

"The  jury  returned  a  verdict  that  deceased  died  from  natural 
causes,  probably  apoplexy." — Todmorden  News,  September  18, 


"  Mr.  John  Jones,  a  contractor  employed  at  Messrs.  Bowers' 
works,  Ruabon,  died  suddenly  on  Wednesday.  On  the  previous 

204  SUDDEN    DEATH. 

day  he  had  been  in  excellent  health.      Death  being  attributed  to 
failure  of  the  heart's  action,  no  inquest  was  deemed  necessary. "- 
Liverpool  Daily  Post,  September  25,  1903. 


"On  the  iQth  March,  1903,  Johnnie  Williams,  of  Taiteg,  aged 
ten,  went  to  school  as  usual,  apparently  enjoying  robust  health. 
Soon  he  complained  of  being  unwell,  and  began  to  vomit.  The 
schoolmaster  sent  him  home,  and  he  was  put  to  bed,  and  soon 
died  from  failure  of  the  heart.  Dr.  Lloyd  was  summoned,  but  he 
arrived  after  life  became  extinct." — -North  Wales  Times,  Denbigh,, 
November  28,  1903. 

"A  death,  exceedingly  painful  in  its  suddenness,  occurred  at 
Astley  Bridge  on  Saturday.  The  deceased  was  a  young  woman 
named  Leah  Elizabeth  Stables,  21  years  of  age,  a  weaver,  of  Eden 
Street.  She  arrived  home  from  work  at  noon  that  day,  and  com- 
plained of  a  bad  headache.  She  took  two  pills  that  she  had  been 
accustomed  to  having,  and  then  said  she  would  have  a  rest,  and 
proceeded  upstairs.  At  2.30  her  married  sister  went  to  her  room, 
when  she  complained  of  feeling  rather  cold,  and  asked  that  some 
more  clothes  should  be  placed  upon  her.  Her  sister  did  as 
requested,  and  then  left  her.  About  four  o'clock  the  latter  went 
upstairs  again  to  awaken  her  to  go  to  a  party,  and  was  shocked  to 
find  her  lying  dead  on  the  bed  in  the  same  position  that  she  had 
left  her.  Two  doctors  were  called  in,  but  could,  of  course, 
render  no  assistance.  Deceased  had  evidently  passed  away  in  her 
sleep.  She  had  previously  had  good  health,  except  that  she  had 
headaches.  It  is  a  curious  coincidence  that  deceased's  brother 
aged  seventeen,  previously  died  in  the  same  way,  about  nine  years, 
ago,  a  verdict  of  heart  disease  being  returned  at  the  inquest. 
An  inquest  was  held  by  Mr.  John  Fearnley,  Deputy  Borough 
Coroner,  on  Monday  afternoon,  at  the  Lamb  Inn,  Astley  Bridge, 
in  reference  to  this  death.  There  was  no  sign  of  her  having  had  a 
fit — she  looked  as  if  only  asleep.  She  had  never  complained  of 
any  heart  ailment,  but  she  had  had  headaches  previously,  for 
which  she  had  taken  pills  similar  to  those  she  used  on  Saturday. 


Deceased  had  always  been  healthy,  except  having  an  ulcerated  leg 
some  time  ago.  A  juror  said  he  saw  deceased  on  Friday,  and 
she  then  looked  in  the  'pink  of  condition.'  The  Coroner  was  of 
opinion  that  death  arose  from  sudden  failure  of  the  heart's  action  ; 
but  if  the  jury  desired  further  evidence  there  might  be  a  post- 
mortem examination.  The  jury,  however,  considered  this  unneces- 
sary, and  returned  a  verdict  of  '  Natural  causes — probably  heart 
failure.'  It  transpired  at  the  inquiry  that  a  sister  of  the  deceased 
had  also  died  suddenly,  as  well  as  the  brother." — Bolton  Chronicle, 
December  2,  1903. 


"The  sudden  death  of  James  Studd,  a  horseman  in  the  employ 
of  the  Ipswich  Corporation,  who  lived  at  29  Fitzroy  Street,  was 
the  subject  of  investigation  by  the  Borough  Coroner,  on  Monday 
evening,  at  the  Crown  Street  Church  Schoolroom.  The  deceased 
man  was  following  his  ordinary  occupation  on  Saturday  up  till 
half-past  one  o'clock,  when  he  left  off  for  the  day.  From  that  time 
he  did  not  leave  his  house,  but  was  quite  well.  He  went  to  bed 
about  a  quarter  past  nine.  When  his  wife  followed,  a  little 
later,  he  seemed  to  be  asleep.  The  same  was  the  case  when  Mrs. 
Studd  got  up  in  the  morning  at  eight  o'clock,  and,  thinking  her 
husband  was  in  a  good  sleep,  she  did  not  speak  to  him.  When, 
however,  she  called  him  to  breakfast,  and  could  get  no  answer,  her 
suspicions  were  aroused.  On  going  upstairs,  she  looked  at  him 
and  touched  him,  but  he  did  not  move.  She  therefore  called  in 
William  Flory,  who  lives  close  by,  and  is  also  employed  by  the 
Corporation,  who  confirmed  her  worst  fears,  namely,  that  her 
husband  had  died  in  his  sleep.  Mr.  Frank  Adams,  surgeon, 
attributed  death  to  natural  causes,  probably  heart  failure.  The 
Coroner  having  said  that  after  the  medical  testimony  there  was 
no  need  for  further  evidence,  the  jury  returned  a  verdict  of  '  Death 
from  natural  causes.'" — East  Anglian  Times,  December  22,  1903. 


"  This  evening  an  inquest  was  held  by  Mr.  Reece,  Cardiff 
District  Coroner,  on  the  body  of  Catherine  Pyburn,  eighteen  years 

206  SUDDEN    DEATH. 

of  age,  of  46  Helen  Street.  Deceased,  who  had  been  a  healthy- 
young  woman,  was  suddenly  taken  ill  on  the  morning  of  Christmas 
Day.  Dr.  Corrigan  was  called  in,  and  found  her  in  an  unconscious 
condition,  and  she  died  shortly  afterwards  in  an  epileptic  fit.  A 
verdict  of  'Death  from  natural  causes'  was  returned."  —  South 
Wales  Daily  Echo,  December  28,  1903. 


"  Yesterday  morning  a  blacksmith  named  Edward  Whelan,  aged 
between  40  and  50  years,  expired  very  suddenly  at  his  forge  in 
Glasslough  Street,  Monaghan.  The  deceased  had  been  working 
all  morning,  and  at  about  nine  o'clock  took  a  vomiting  fit.  Dr. 
James  Henry  was  soon  on  the  scene,  but  Whelan,  who  seemed  a 
healthy  and  robust  man,  did  not  rally,  and  died  in  a  few  minutes. 
An  inquest  was  not  considered  necessary.'"' — Belfast  Newsletter., 
December  29,  1903. 


"A  little  girl  named  Christinia  Brown,  of  Newcombe  Street,. 
Newcastle,  died  suddenly  on  Wednesday  night.  She  was  only 
nine  years  of  age,  and  was  looked  upon  as  a  healthy  child.  But 
whilst  playing  in  the  back  lane,  near  her  parents'  house,  she 
suddenly  fell  to  the  ground,  and  on  being  picked  up  was  found  to- 
be  dead.  At  an  inquest  on  the  body  last  night  it  was  stated  that 
nothing  had  ever  ailed  the  girl.  The  jury  returned  a  verdict  to  the 
effect  that  deceased  had  died  from  some  natural  cause,  probably 
heart  disease." — Newcastle  Daily  Chronicle,  January  23,  1904. 


"  Yesterday  afternoon,  a  storeman  named  Joseph  Boyd,  aged  33 
years,  of  Howe  Street,  Bootle,  who  was  in  the  employ  of  Eller- 
man's  Limited,  shipowners,  died  suddenly  on  a  tramcar  in  Derby- 
Road.  It  appears  that  when  he  boarded  the  car  at  Bankhall  he 
was  in  good  health.  Shortly  afterwards  he  fainted,  and  was 
conveyed  to  the  Bootle  Hospital,  and  on  being  examined  by 
Dr.  Laird  life  was  found  to  be  extinct." — Liverpool  Daily 
February  27,  1904. 



"  Early  yesterday  morning,  Mr.  J.  Aird  was  found  dead  in  bed  at 
the  Royal  George  Hotel,  Crewkerne.  He  had  given  instructions 
for  his  hot  water,  which  was  put  outside  his  bedroom.  On  the 
1  boots '  going  up  to  the  room,  about  an  hour  afterwards,  he 
found  Mr.  Aird  dead.  Deceased  travelled  for  a  firm  of  wholesale 
druggists.  He  appeared  to  be  in  the  best  of  health  on  retiring 
to  rest  on  Tuesday  night." — Devon  Daily  Gazette,  April  7,  1904. 

The  foregoing  are  given  simply  as  typical  examples 
of  a  class  of  cases  of  which  thousands  might  be  cited, 
but  it  has  not  been  thought  necessary  to  weary  the 
reader  with  the  details  of  further  instances. 

While  it  is  not  suggested  that  the  foregoing  are  cases 
of  premature  burial,  yet  it  is  absolutely  certain  that  they 
belong  to  the  category  of  persons  of  whom  a  consider- 
able percentage  are  liable  to  such  misadventures,  unless 
precautions  very  different  from  those  in  vogue  are  taken 
to  prevent  them.  All  medical  practitioners  allow  that 
a  man  may  be  half  drowned  or  half  dead,  and  that 
cases  of  suspended  animation  occur  where  the  most 
experienced  physician  is  unable  to  detect  the  faintest 
indication  of  breathing  or  cardiac  movement.  They  are, 
however,  quite  sceptical  as  to  absolute  suspensions  of 
life  where  all  the  ordinary  methods  to  test  its  existence 
fail ;  and,  owing  to  this  scepticism,  and  the  readiness  to 
give  certificates  of  death  in  cases  of  alleged  sudden 
death,  have  unwittingly  promoted  premature  burials,  as 
will  appear  by  the  facts  quoted  in  these  pages. 


Mr.  M.  Cooper,  in  the  "  Uncertainty  of  the  Signs 
of  Death,"  p.  49,  cites  from  a  letter  by  one  William 

208  SUDDEN    DEATH. 

Fabri,  a  surgeon,  the  opinion  that  we  ..."  have 
just  reason  to  condemn  the  too  precipitate  interment 
of  persons  overpowered  by  lethargies,  apoplexies,  or 
suffocation  of  the  matrix  ;  for  I  know  there  have  been 
some,  supposed  to  be  irretrievably  cut  off  by  these 
disorders,  who,  resuming  strength  and  returning  to  life, 
have  raised  the  boards  of  their  own  coffins,  because  in 
such  disorders  the  soul  only  retires,  as  it  were,  to  her 
most  secret  and  concealed  residence,  in  order  to  make 
the  body  afterwards  sensible  that  she  had  not  entirely 
forsaken  it."  These  wise  counsels  were  written  two 
hundred  and  sixty-eight  years  ago,  since  which  time 
thousands  of  our  fellow-creatures  have,  it  is  feared,  been 
the  victims  of  premature  interment,  and  yet  the  danger 
then  pointed  out  remains.  The  Undertakers'  and 
Funeral  Directors'  Journal,  the  conductors  of  which 
are  laudably  anxious  to  keep  their  profession  from  the 
odium  of  burying  people  alive,  referring  to  sudden 
deaths  and  this  danger,  says,  in  its  issue  of  January 
24,  1894,  under  the  head  of  "A  Burning  Question"  : — 
"  Sufferers  from  such  chronic  ailments  as  are  reputed 
to  end  suddenly  are  in  constant  danger  from  the  pre- 
sent state  of  the  law,  if  they  are  in  the  hands  of  people 
interested  in  their  death."  And  continues  :  "  Even 
where  a  medical  certificate  is  obtained,  such  general 
laxity  has  entered  into  proceedings  that  but  little  pro- 
tection is  thereby  afforded  to  the  public.  While  the 
medical  man  is  bound  to  state  what  he  believes  to  be 
the  cause  of  death,  he  is  under  no  obligation  to  make 
sure  either  that  the  patient  is  dead  at  all,  or  that,  if 
dead,  he  died  from  a  particular  disease  for  which  he 
was  attending  him." 



Dr.  Alfred  Swayne  Taylor,  in  his  standard  work  on 
*'  Medical  Jurisprudence,"  writing  of  a  petition  which 
on  one  occasion  was  presented  to  the  French  Chamber 
of  Deputies,  wherein  the  petitioner  declared  he  had 
known  six  interments  of  living  persons  to  have  taken 
place  within  a  period  of  eight  months,  adds  that  Carre 
notified  no  less  than  forty- six  cases  of  premature  burial. 
<f  Among  these,  twenty-one  persons  returned  to  life  at 
the  time  they  were  about  to  be  deposited  in  the  earth t 
nine  recovered  owing  to  the  affectionate  attentions  of 
their  relations,  four  from  the  accidental  falling  of  the 
coffins,  two  from  a  feeling  of  suffocation  in  their  coffins, 
three  from  the  puncture  of  pins  in  fastening  the  shrouds, 
and  seven  from  unusual  delay  in  the  funerals;  and,  it  is 
added,  the  decease  of  all  these  individuals  was  officially 

The  author,  in  commenting  on  the  above,  says  :— 
"  Statements  of  this  kind  can  only  be  received  with 
incredulity,  since  no  particulars  by  which  their  accuracy 
•can  be  tested  are  given,  .  .  .  but  if  the  account  given 
by  Carre  be  true,  ...  it  is  doubtful  whether  greater 
negligence  could  have  been  shown  than  that  which  is 
here  alleged  to  have  occurred  on  the  part  of  the  French 
officials  in  modern  times." 

There  is  no  sufficient  ground,  as  far  as  one  can  see, 
for  treating  the  statement  of  Carre'  with  "  incredulity." 
Had  the  French  authorities  troubled  themselves  to 
investigate  these  deliberate  circumstantially-stated  par- 
ticulars furnished  by  a  writer  of  repute,  they  could  have 
done  so  ;  but  evidently  this  dense  atmosphere  of  "  in- 
credulity," which  is  the  very  curse  of  official  life  and  of 

210  SUDDEN    DEATH. 

medical  orthodoxy,  blinded  French  officialdom  to  the 
terrible  possibilities  which  their  own  system  of  burial 
entailed.  One  would  have  thought  that  their  own 
French  proverb,  //  riy  a  point  de  fumee  sans  feu, 
would  have  warned  them  of  the  necessity  of  careful 
investigation  into  such  striking  particulars. 

But,  as  to  the  "  negligence  of  French  officials,"  which, 
if  true,  was  manifested  by  these  statements,  the  English 
author  of  "  Medical  Jurisprudence  "  may  be  reminded  of 
his  own  admission  that  not  even  an  "official"  is  held 
responsible  for  attestation  of  death  in  this  country,  and 
that  probably  nine-tenths  of  the  medical  certificates  of 
death  in  Great  Britain  are  given  without  the  certifier 
ever  personally  satisfying  himself  by  a  visit  of  the  reality 
of  the  alleged  death.  In  the  face  of  such  a  fact,  the 
affectation  of  "  incredulity,"  and  the  sneer  at  "  the  idle 
tales  of  ignorant  and  superstitious  persons,"  are  con- 
siderably discounted. 


The  Medical  Times  and  Gazette,  1859,  vol.  xviii.y 
p.  256,  has  the  following: — 

"We  find  in  an  account  taken  from  the  'Boston  Medical  and 
Surgical  Journal'  some  observations  on  the  heart  of  a  hanged 
criminal,  which  are  remarkable  in  a  moral  point  of  view,  as  well  as 
in  their  scientific  aspect.  The  man  died,  it  appears,  as  the  phrase 
is,  without  a  struggle ;  and,  therefore,  probably  in  the  first  instance 
he  fell  into  a  syncope.  The  lungs  and  brain  were  found  normal. 
Seven  minutes  after  suspension,  the  heart's  sounds  were  distinctly 
heard,  its  pulsations  being  one  hundred  a  minute;  two  minutes- 
later  they  were  ninety-eight ;  and  in  three  minutes  sixty,  and  very 
feeble.  In  two  minutes  more  the  sounds  became  inaudible.  The 
man  was  suspended  at  ten  o'clock,  and  his  body  was  cut  down 


twenty-five  minutes  afterwards.  There  was  then  neither  sound 
nor  impulse.  At  10.40  the  cord  was  relaxed,  and  then  the  face 
became  gradually  pale;  the  spinal  cord  was  uninjured.  ...  At 
1 1. 30  a  regular  movement  of  pulsation  was  observed  in  the  right 
subclavian  vein ;  and,  on  applying  the  ear  to  the  chest,  there  was 
heard  a  regular,  distinct,  and  single  beat,  accompanied  with  a 
slight  impulse.  Hereupon  Drs.  Clark,  Ellis,  and  Shaw  open  the 
thorax,  and  expose  the  heart,  which  still  continues  to  beat !  The 
right  auricle  contracted  and  dilated  with  energy  and  regularity. 
At  twelve  o'clock  the  pulsations  were  forty  in  a  minute;  at  1.45 
five  per  minute.  They  ceased  at  2.45  ;  but  irritability  did  not 
entirely  disappear  until  3.18,  more  than  five  hours  after  suspension. 
'This  fact,3  says  M.  Sequard,  'demonstrates  that  in  a  man,  un- 
fortunately, even  when  syncope  exists  for  some  minutes  at  the 
commencement  of  strangulation,  the  ventricles  of  the  heart  cease  to 
beat  almost  as  quickly  as  they  do  in  strangulation  without  syncope/ 
With  regard  to  the  moral  aspects  of  this  case,  the  same  gentleman 
remarks  : — '  People  will  probably  be  surprised  that  the  body  of 
this  man  should  have  been  opened  while  the  beating  of  the  heart 
was  still  audible.  We  will  not  ask  here  if  the  doctors  committed 
or  not  a  blamable  action  ;  we  will  only  say  that  we  know  them 
personally,  and  that  if  they  have  in  part  merited  the  violent  re- 
proaches addressed  to  them,  they  are,  nevertheless,  hommes  de 
coeiir,  who,  in  an  excess  of  scientific  zeal,  did  not  notice  that  the 
body  upon  which  they  experimented  was  not,  perhaps,  at  the  time 
a  dead  body.'  " 

The  above  is  a  ghastly  instance  of  how  syncope — 
that  is,  the  temporary  failure  of  the  heart's  action- 
simulating  death,  may  lead  to  the  most  revolting 
consequences.  Let  us  examine  this  further. 


The  deaths  attributed  to  syncope  in  the  Registrar- 
General's  reports  for  England  and  Wales  from  1888  to* 
1893  are  : — 

212  SUDDEN    DEATH. 

YEAR.                                             MALES.  FEMALES. 

1888  Si/  896 

1889         939         922 

1890  1,237         1,250 

1891         i,355         i.iSoi 

1892  941  943 

1893         848         770 

From  1894  t°  1900  we  record  the  total  deaths  from 
^  Syncope  "  and  the  total  "  Sudden  Deaths  "  where  the 
-causes  have  been  unascertained  : — 



1894       1,564       285 

1895       l^I       301 

1896    1,609    31/ 

1897       I  j6l3       2O4 

1898       1,471       199 

1899     1,224     212 

1900  883  244 

Syncope,  however,  is  not  a  disease,  though  often  certified 
as  such,  but  is  merely  a  symptom  of  certain  maladies,  or 
a  manifestation  of  suspended  animation  from  unascer- 
tained cause.  In  Hoblyn's  "  Dictionary  of  Medical 
Terms,"  p.  632,  syncope  is  described  as — "  Fainting  or 
swoon  ;  a  sudden  suspension  of  the  heart's  action, 
accompanied  by  cessation  of  the  functions  of  the 
organs  of  respiration,  internal  and  external  sensation, 
and  voluntary  motion."  There  appears,  therefore,  every 
probability  that,  with  careless  or  ignorant  medical  prac- 
titioners, syncope  is  not  seldom  mistaken  for  trance,  and 
a  certificate  of  death  may  be  given  where  there  is  merely 


a  suspension  and  not  a  termination  of  life  ;  and  this 
probability  is  reduced  to  a  certainty  when  we  learn  the 
number  of  premature  burials  and  narrow  escapes  re- 
ported by  Winslow,  Bruhier,  Koppen,  E.  Bouchut, 
Lenormand,  F.  Kempner,  Moore  Russell  Fletcher, 
Gannal,  Gaubert,  Hartmann,  and  other  recognised 
authorities.  Dr.  James  Curry,  Senior  Physician  to 
Guy's  Hospital,  and  Lecturer  on  the  Theory  and 
Practice  of  Medicine,  in  the  introduction  to  his  "  Ob- 
servations on  Apparent  Death,"  London,  1815,  2  ed.v 
p.  i,  says:  "The  time  is  still  within  the  recollection 
of  many  now  living  when  it  was  almost  universally 
believed  that  life  quitted  the  body  in  a  very  few 
minutes  after  the  person  had  ceased  to  breathe.  Re- 
markable examples  to  the  contrary  were,  indeed,  upon 
record  ;  but  these,  besides  being  extremely  rare,  were 
generally  cases  wherein  the  suspension,  as  well  as  the 
recovery  of  life,  had  occurred  spontaneously ;  they  were, 
therefore,  beheld  with  astonishment,  as  particular  in- 
stances of  Divine  Interposition." 


It  is  believed  that  the  majority  of  the  members  of  the 
medical  profession  still  entertain  the  idea  that  a  human 
being  is  dead  when  breathing  can  no  longer  be  detected, 
as  in  the  cases  of  reported  sudden  deaths  ;  and,  except 
in  those  which  occur  from  drowning,  or  suffocation 
through  noxious  gases,  attempts  are  very  rarely  made 
to  promote  restoration,  and,  unless  they  return  to  life 
spontaneously  while  above  ground,  there  are  good 
reasons  to  fear  that  an  appreciable  number  do  so  under 
ground.  The  prevailing  belief  in  the  existence  of 

214  SUDDEN    DEATH. 

sudden  deaths  is  one  of  the  chief  causes  of  the  terrible 
mistakes  that  lead  to  live  burials.  If  this  delusive  idea 
were  removed,  those  concerned,  such  as  physicians, 
undertakers,  relatives,  and  friends,  would  treat  a  person 
who  unexpectedly  took  on  the  appearance  of  death  as 
one  needing  careful  attention  by  physician  and  nurse 
to  bring  him  round  to  health  again,  as  is  usually  clone 
in  cases  of  fainting.  If  trance  were  understood,  doctors 
would  be  on  the  lookout  for  it  ;  but,  as  it  is  not  under- 
stood, it  is  called  death,  and  we  bury  our  mistakes 

Dr.  Hilton  Fagge,  while  doubting  whether  there  is 
any  foundation  for  the  strong  fear  which  many  persons 
entertain  of  being  buried  alive  after  supposed  death, 
allows  that  there  is  danger  in  cases  of  sudden  death. 
In  his  "Principles  and  Practice  of  Medicine,"  Dr.  Fagge 
says :  "  The  cases  really  requiring  caution  are  some 
very  few  instances  of  persons  found  in  the  streets,  or 
losing  consciousness  unexpectedly  and  in  unusual  cir- 

Dr.  Leonce  Lenormand,  in  "  Des  Inhumations  Pre- 
cipitees,"  p.  86,  says  that  medical  archives  record  details 
of  a  great  number  of  apoplectic  cases  revived  after  one, 
two,  and  three  days'  apparent  death  ;  and  observes  that 
the  most  celebrated  physicians,  both  ancient  and  modern, 
agree  in  recommending  delay  in  the  burial  of  persons 
who  succumb  to  this  affliction. 

1  In  the  3rd  ed.,  by  Dr.  Pye  Smith,  the  following  occurs  at  p.  817  of 
vol.  i.,  under  "Trance": — "These  are  the  cases  which  have  led  to  the 
popular  belief  that  death  is  sometimes  only  apparent,  and  that  there  may 
be  a  danger  of  persons  being  buried  alive  ;  and  it  cannot  be  denied  that  a 
patient  in  such  a  condition  might  easily  be  allowed  to  die  by  careless  or 
ignorant  attendants,  or  might  be  buried  before  death." 

"  DEAD  "— BUT    CONSCIOUS.  215 


Dr.  Franz  Hartmann,  in  his  "Premature  Burial,"  p.  n, 
quotes  the  following  : — 

"  In  the  Bukovina,  a  young  woman,  in  the  vicinity  of  Radautz, 
<iied  of  spasms  of  the  heart.  They  waited  five  days  for  the 
funeral,  because  no  signs  of  putrefaction  appeared.  The  clergy- 
man then  refused  any  longer  delay,  and  the  final  arrangements 
for  interment  were  made.  Just  as  they  were  about  to  put  the 
coffin  into  the  grave,  the  sister  of  the  deceased  woman,  who  lived 
at  another  place,  arrived,  and  begged  to  be  permitted  to  see  the 
dead  body.  Owing  to  her  entreaties  the  coffin  was  opened,  and 
as  the  woman  saw  the  unaltered  features  of  her  sister,  she  asserted 
her  belief  that  the  supposed  dead  was  still  living.  She  procured 
a  red-hot  poker,  and,  in  spite  of  the  remonstrances  of  those 
present,  she  touched  with  it  the  soles  of  the  feet  of  the  corpse. 
There  was  a  spasmodic  jerk,  and  the  woman  recovered.  The 
most  remarkable  thing  was  that  the  supposed  dead  woman  had 
not  been  unconscious  for  a  moment,  but  was  able  to  describe 
afterwards  all  the  details  of  what  had  taken  place  around  her,  from 
the  moment  when  she  was  supposed  to  die  up  to  the  time  of  her 
recovery  ;  but  she  had  looked  upon  all  that  like  an  unconscious 
spectator,  and  not  experienced  any  sensation,  nor  was  she  able  to 
give  any  sign  of  life." 

In  "  Les  Signes  de  la  Mort,"  by  Dr.  E.  Bouchut, 
p.  51,  Dr.  J.  Schmid  is  cited  for  the  case  of  a  girl, 
seven  years  of  age,  who,  while  playing  with  her  com- 
panions, fell  suddenly  down  (as  if  struck  by  lightning), 
and  died.  There  was  paleness,  absence  of  pulse,  in- 
sensibility to  all  stimulus.  Nevertheless,  owing  to 
the  requests  of  the  distressed  parents,  the  apparently 
hopeless  attempts  at  resuscitation  were  continued. 
After  three-quarters  of  an  hour  the  girl  gave  a  sigh 
and  recovered. 

2l6  SUDDEN    DEATH. 

The  Medical  Record,  New  York,  1883,  vol.,  xxiii.^ 
p.  236,  contains  a  paper  on  "  Revivification  "  (in  cases 
of  sudden  apparent  death  from  heart  disease,  and  in 
the  still-born),  by  S.  Waterman,  M.D.,  New  York. 

Case   I,  February,  1880. — Mr.  B ,  aged  84,  suffered 

from  valvular  disease  of  the  heart,  and  likewise  from 
Bright's  disease.  "  One  morning,  while  I  was  sitting 
at  his  bedside,  and  in  friendly  conversation  with  him, 
he  being  to  all  appearance  in  a  very  happy  mood  of 
mind,  he  suddenly  fell  back,  his  eyes  became  fixed 
and  glassy,  a  deadly  pallor  crept  over  his  counten- 
ance, respiration  and  the  heart's  action  ceased  simul- 
taneously, and  death  seemed  to  have  carried  him 
off  suddenly  and  unexpectedly.  It  was  this  sudden- 
ness of  the  event  that  impelled  me  to  make  efforts  at 
revivification.  Two  nephews  of  Mrs.  B—  — ,  who  were 
fortunately  in  the  house,  were  brought  under  requisi- 
tion, and,  under  my  direction,  systematic  artificial 
movements  were  carried  on  for  nearly  thirty  minutes, 
when  one  deep  inspiratory  effort  was  made  by  the 
patient  himself.  Thus  encouraged,  we  redoubled  our 
efforts  for  ten  minutes  more  ;  other  inspiratory  efforts 
followed  in  quicker  succession  ;  the  heart  began  to 
respond.  Hardly  audible  at  first,  it  acquired  force  and 
momentum  ;  it  could  now  be  felt  at  the  wrist ;  the 
deadly  pallor  passed  away,  the  eyes  lost  their  glassy, 
fixed  aspect,  sighs  and  groans  could  be  heard,  twitch- 
ings  of  the  muscles  of  the  arm  and  fingers  could  be 
distinctly  felt,  and  the  appearances  of  death  made 
way  for  reanimated  conditions.  He  lay  unconscious 
for  more  than  ten  hours,  respiration  being  hurried, 
and  breathing  stertorous,  the  heart's  action  wild  and 

"  REVIVICATION."  2 1 / 

irregular.  During  the  night  he  was  delirious  and 
restless ;  toward  morning  all  untoward  symptoms 
subsided,  and  a  quiet  sleep  followed  the  extreme  rest- 
lessness. .  .  .  He  died  six  weeks  afterwards,  under 
symptoms  of  uraemic  toxication.  During  these  six 
weeks  he  had  several  other  attacks — one  very  prolonged 
and  almost  fatal — in  which  artificial  respiration  was 
resorted  to  with  the  same  success." 


The  editor  of  the  Manchester  Criterion,  December  1 1 , 
1895,  says: — "Many  cases  of  sudden  death  have  been 
entombed  who  were  really  alive,  so  far  as  the  union  of 
the  body  and  soul  is  concerned.  Sudden  disappearance 
of  life  is  very  common,  due  to  excessive  weakness  or 
a  partial  cessation  of  the  heart's  action  ;  and  doctors 
should  be  very  chary  in  giving  death  certificates  until 
it  has  been  ascertained  that  decomposition  has  ensued. 
Many  object  to  this  delay,  and  on  the  approach  of  an 
indication  of  death,  or  apparent  death,  often  hurry  the 
body  to  the  grave.  We  know  of  a  young  lady,  for 
whom  the  shroud  was  bought,  and  the  crape  fastened 
on  the  door,  who  was  restored  to  life." 


Professor  Alexander  Wilder,  M.D.,  in  "  Perils  of 
Premature  Burial,"  p.  16,  says : — "  In  this  country 
(America),  however,  the  peril  of  interment  before  death 
has  actually  taken  place  is  very  great.  For  years  past 
it  has  been  a  very  common  occurrence  for  persons  in 
supposed  good  health  to  fall  down  suddenly,  with  every 
appearance  of  having  died.  We  do  not  regard  sudden 
15  - 

2l8  SUDDEN    DEATH. 

death  with  terror,  as  it  is  so  often  painless,  and  exempts 
the  individual  from  the  anxiety  and  other  unpleasant 
experiences  which  so  often  accompany  a  lingering 
dissolution.  But  there  is  a  terrible  liability  of  being 
prostrated  by  catalepsy,  the  counterpart  of  death,  under 
such  circumstances  that  those  who  have  the  body  in 
charge  will  not  hesitate  about  a  prompt  interment." 

"  The  difficulty  of  distinguishing  a  person  apparently 
dead  from  one  who  is  really  so  has,  in  all  countries 
where  bodies  are  interred  precipitately,  rendered  it 
necessary  for  the  law  to  assist  humanity.  Of  several 
regulations  made  on  this  subject,  a  few  of  the  most 
recent  may  suffice — such  as  those  of  Arras  in  1772  ;  of 
Mantua  in  17/4;  of  the  Grand  Duke  of  Tuscany  in 
1775  ;  of  the  Senechaussee  of  Sivrai  in  Poitou  in  1777  ; 
and  of  the  Parliament  of  Metz  in  the  same  year.  .  .  . 
These  edicts  forbid  the  precipitate  interment  of  persons 
who  die  suddenly.  Magistrates  of  health  are  to  be  in- 
formed, that  physicians  may  examine  the  body;  that 
they  may  use  every  endeavour  to  recall  life,  if  possible, 
or  to  discover  the  cause  of  death."-- Encyclopaedia 
Britannica,  quoted  by  John  Snart  in  "  Apparent  Death," 
1824,  pp.  81,  82. 



THE  ancient  philosopher  Democritus  averred  that  there 
was  no  certain  sign  of  the  cessation  of  life.  With  this 
view  many  authorities  have  since  coincided.  Certainly, 
no  one  sign  is  in  itself  sufficient  proof  of  death,  unless 
it  be  that  of  putrefaction.  It  is  rather  by  a  combination 
of  signs  that  the  fact  may  be  ascertained  prior  to  the 
putrefaction  stage ;  but  how  far  the  investigator  may  be 
misled  will  be  seen  in  the  following  pages. 


There  exists  a  common  belief  that  if  breathing  and 
pulsation  cease  for  only  a  brief  period  it  will  be  impos- 
sible for  consciousness  to  be  recovered,  and  a  trifling 
experiment,  such  as  feeling  the  pulse  at  the  wrist,  or 
holding  a  mirror  to  the  face,  is  sufficient  to  create  the 
belief  in  the  popular  mind  that  death  has  really  taken 

"  Lend  me  a  looking-glass; 
If  that  her  breath  will  mist  or  stain  the  stone, 
Why,  then,  she  lives." — King  Lear,  act  v.,  scene  3. 

But  whilst  it  would  appear  presumptuous  to  attempt  to 
doubt  or  deny  a  theory  so  widely  accepted  by  both  the 
lay  and  medical  world,  yet  numerous  well-attested  facts 
conclusively  show  that  such  vital  actions  may  be  sus- 
pended, and  may  even  resist  the  most  rigorous  tests 
known  to  science,  only  to  be  followed  by  the  recovery 
of  the  sleeper. 


Dr.  S.  Weir  Mitchell l  describes  the  following  : — 
"  I  saw,  very  many  years  ago,  a  handsome  girl,  twenty 
years  of  age,  from  Cincinnati,  who  had  spells  of  appa- 
rent death,  if  I  may  use  such  a  term.     One  of  these  I 

had  the  good  fortune  to  see,  and,  indeed,  to  cause 

The  young  lady  happened  to  be  particularly  sensitive 
to  odours,  and  even  discussion  about  the  subject  would 
induce  an  attack.  Hystero-epilepsy  in  this  case  had 
given  place  to  '  death  spells,'  as  her  friends  called  them. 
She  said  to  me:  '  I  am  going  to  have  an  attack;  feel  my 
pulse.  In  a  few  minutes  I  shall  be  dead!'  The  pulse,, 
which  just  before  was  about  100,  was  now  racing  and 
quite  countless,  while  the  irregularity  and  violence  of 
the  heart's  action  seemed  inconceivable.  With  the  in- 
terest of  a  hysterical  woman  in  her  own  performances, 
she  said  to  me:  'Now,  watch  it;  you  will  be  amazed.' 
This  certainly  was  the  case.  Within  a  few  minutes  the 
pulse  began  to  fall  in  number,  and,  as  well  as  I  can 
recall  it,  in  some  fifteen  minutes  was  beating  only  40. 
Then  a  beat  would  drop  out  here  and  there,  the  pulse 
meanwhile  growing  feebler,  until  I  could  no  longer  feel 
it  nor  hear  the  heart.  In  this  state  of  seeming  death- 
white,  still,  without  breathing  or  any  perceptible  cir- 
culation— this  girl  lay  from  two  to  four  days.  In  this 
time  there  were  spells  of  a  few  minutes  during  which 
the  heart  beat  again  furiously  and  irregularly,  as  was 
also  the  case  when  she  revived." 

Sir  B.  W.  Richardson  relates  a  case  observed  in  1869 

1  "  Lectures  on  Diseases  of  the  Nervous  System,  especially  in  Women.'" 
Second  edition,  1885,  p.  245. 



by  Dr.  Jackson,  of  Somerby.  A  man  was  struck  by 
lightning  while  driving;  he  reached  his  home  in  a  state 
of  great  prostration,  in  which  he  lay  for  a  long  time, 
and  then  sank  into  such  complete  catalepsy  that  he 
was  pronounced  to  be  dead,  and  was  laid  out  as  a 
corpse.  He  actually  heard  the  sound  of  his  own 
passing  bell,  and  by  a  desperate  effort  moved  one  of 
his  thumbs,  thus  attracting  the  attention  of  the  women 
around  him.  He  recovered,  and  lived  for  some  time. 
One  of  the  most  distinguished  physicians  in  London 
informed  the  author  that,  being  called  in  to  decide  a 
case  of  apparent  or  real  death,  he  had  applied  the 
stethoscope  and  failed  to  detect  the  faintest  pulsation 
in  the  heart,  and  yet  the  woman  recovered.  The 
danger  of  premature  burial  he  believed  to  be  very  real 
and  by  no  means  an  imaginary  one,  and  his  opinions 
were  well  known  in  the  profession. 


It  has  been  deemed  a  sure  sign  of  death,  when 
for  a  considerable  period  no  physical  movement  takes 
place ;  and  also  when  the  lower  jaw  falls  directly 
afterwards.  There  are,  however,  fallacies  connected 
with  this.  Many  physical  changes  may  take  place 
after  death  consequent  upon  muscular  contraction  or 
relaxation,  as  well  as  by  the  generation  of  gases  ;  and 
the  jaw  may  be  fixed  as  in  strychnine  poisoning. 
Upon  the  other  hand,  in  certain  cataleptic  conditions 
movements  are  quite  imperceptible  for  considerable 

Even  electric  stimulation,  one  of  the  tests  of  life 
mentioned  by  Sir  B.  W.  Richardson  in  his  list  quoted 

222  SIGNS   OF    DEATH. 

on  page  232  is  not  to  be  relied  upon,  as  electric 
excitability  usually  lasts  for  some  hours  after  death. 

Again,  concerning  clenched  jaws,  the  Lancet,  1870, 
vol.  i.,  p.  436,  quotes  a  statement  by  A.  de  Labordette, 
Chirurgien  de  1'Hopital  de  Lisieux,  in  a  letter  to  the 
Secretary  of  the  Royal  National  Lifeboat  Institution  : — 

"  I  have  collected  manifold  observations  relating  to 
persons  drowned  or  asphyxiated,  in  whose  case  con- 
traction of  the  jaws  was  remarked,  and  who  were 
subsequently  restored  to  life."  Dr.  Brown  Sequard 
concurred  in  this,  and  declared  further  that  such 
contraction  is  rather  a  sign  of  life  than  of  death. 

With  these  contradictions,  the  mobility  test  may  be 
considered  worthless. 


This  is  perhaps  the  least  satisfactory  test,  the 
custom  of  holding  a  mirror  before  the  mouth,  already 
referred  to,  being  quite  untrustworthy. 

Sir  Benjamin  Ward  Richardson,  in  his  paper  on 
"  The  Absolute  Signs  and  Proofs  of  Death,"  in  the 
Asdepiad,  No.  21  (1889),  vol.  vi.,  p.  6,  says:— 

"  About  the  existence  of  respiratory  movements 
there  is  always  some  cause  for  doubt,  even  amongst 
skilled  observers ;  for  so  slight  a  movement  of  res- 
piration is  sufficient  to  carry  on  life,  at  what  I  have 
in  another  paper  designated  '  life  at  low  tension/ 
that  the  most  practised  eye  is  apt  to  be  deceived." 

"  The  cessation  of  the  indications  of  respiratory 
function,  although  useful  in  a  general  sense,  is  not 
by  any  means  reliable.  It  is  quite  certain  that  in 


poisoning  by  chloral,  and  in  catalepsy,  there  may  be 
life  when  no  external  movement  of  the  chest  is 
appreciable." — Ibidem,  pp.  13,  14. 


"  Equal  doubt  attends  the  absence  of  the  arterial 
pulsations  and  heart  sounds.  It  is  quite  certain  that 
the  pulses  of  the  body,  as  well  as  the  movements 
and  sounds  of  the  heart,  may  be  undetectable  at  a  time 
when  the  body  is  not  only  not  dead  but  actually 
recoverable." — Ibidem,  p.  14. 

Bouchut  found  that  his  original  statement  made 
to  the  Academy  of  Science,  to  the  effect  that  an 
interruption  of  the  action  of  the  heart  lasting  for  two 
minutes  was  a  certain  proof  of  death,  was  incorrect. 
He  thinks  the  heart  should  be  listened  to  for  half- 
an-hour.  Dr.  Brouardel,  in  commenting  upon  this, 
says1: — "You  cannot  listen  to  a  heart  for  half-an-hour 
continuously.  Try  to  do  so ;  in  five  or  six  minutes 
you  will  hear  buzzing  and  murmurs  of  all  sorts,  and 
at  last  you  will  hear  the  beating  of  your  own  heart. 
.  .  .  .  The  absence  of  the  beats  of  the  heart  may 
be  considered  as  a  sign  of  apparent  death,  but  not 
of  real  death." 

In  a  review  of  several  works. on  the  "  Signs  of  Death  " 
in  The  British  and  Foreign  Medical  and  Chirurgical 
Review,  vol.  xv.  [1855],  p.  74,  W.  B.  Kesteven  writes: 
"  M.  Josat  has  recorded  several  instances  wherein 
newly-born  children  have  been  most  carefully  examined 
during  several  minutes  without  the  detection  of  the 

1  "Death  and  Sudden  Death,"  p.   15. 

224  SIGNS   OF    DEATH. 

slightest  cardiac  sound  or  movement,  and  yet  these 
have  rallied  and  lived.  M.  Depaul  has  collected  ten 
similar  instances.  M.  Brachet  has  recorded1  an  instance 
of  a  man  in  whom  neither  sound  nor  movement  of 
the  heart  could  be  heard  for  eight  minutes,  and  who 
nevertheless  survived.  Another  adult  case  is  mentioned 
by  Dr.  Josat  as  having  been  witnessed  by  M.  Girbal, 
of  Montpellier.  .  .  .  Sir  B.  Brodie  and  others  have 
described  children  born  without  hearts.  The  circulation 
is  maintained  at  one  period  of  human  life  without 
the  aid  of  the  heart.  It  is,  besides,  quite  consistent 
with  the  facts  observed  in  hysterical  and  other  con- 
ditions of  the  nervous  system,  that  the  action  of  the 
heart,  like  that  of  other  muscles,  should  be  so  extremely 
feeble  as  not  to  be  cognisable  by  any  sound  or  impulse, 
and  yet  it  may  have  sufficient  movement  slowly  to  move 
the  blood  through  the  system,  whose  every  function  and 
endowment  is  suspended  and  all  but  annihilated.  In 
cases  of  catalepsy,  and  of  authentic  instances  of  apparent 
death,  the  respiratory  muscles  have  not  been  seen  to 
move,  yet  inspiration  and  expiration — however  slowly 
and  imperceptibly — must  have  taken  place." 


By  rigor  mortis  is  meant  that  condition  of  rigidity 
which  sets  in  after  death,  and  which  is  frequently  of 
so  marked  a  character  that  it  is  impossible  to  flex  the 
limbs,  and  the  body  may  be  lifted  like  a  plank  of 
wood.  It  may,  however,  be  so  slightly  marked  as  to 
escape  the  most  careful  observation.  In  exhaustive 

^Bulletin  Therap.  fifed.,  tome  xxvii.,  p.  371. 


illnesses,  or  after  great  fatigue,  rigor  mortis  appears 
early  and  does  not  last  long,  but  in  the  case  of  persons 
dying  while  in  good  health  its  onset  is  delayed  and 
its  duration  much  longer.  Its  causes  and  mode  of 
production  are  practically  unknown. 

Dr.  Roger  S.  Chew  observes  : — "  Rigor  mortis  is  a 
condition  that  seldom  or  never  supervenes  in  the  hot 
weather  in  India,  and  is  often  a  feature  of  catalepsy." 
In  persons  dying  of  sunstroke,  the  rigidity  comes  on 
very  late.  When  a  corpse  is  kept  in  a  warm  and 
moist  atmosphere,  rigor  mortis  is  usually  early  and  short. 

The  danger  of  mistaking  the  rigidity  of  a  cataleptic 
condition  for  the  rigidity  of  death  has  been  pointed 
out  by  Ebenezer  Milner,  M.D.  Edin.,  L.R.C.S.E.,  in  the 
Edinburgh  Medical  and  Surgical  Journal,  1850,  vol. 
Ixxiv.,  p.  330,  where  he  says,  "  Patients  labouring  under 
an  intense  and  prolonged  paroxysm  of  catalepsy  have 
been  supposed  to  be  dead,  and  have  been  buried 
alive";  and,  in  speaking  of  severe  cases,  says,  "The 
stiffness  of  the  limbs  accompanying  this  intense  form 
of  trance  supervenes  at  once,  and  lasts  as  long  as  the 
paroxysm  continues." 


This  was  considered  at  one  time  of  such  importance 
that  the  French  Academy  awarded  a  prize  for  its 
discovery.  Its  actual  value  has  been  well  gauged  by 
Edwin  Haward,  M.D.  Edin.,  F.R.C.S.  Eng.,  in  the 
Lancet  of  June  10,  1893,  p.  ip*f:-*fif€)  «u^  \^0l| 

"  The  diaphanous  test  consists  in  taking  a  hand  of  a 
supposed  dead  person,  placing  it  before  a  strong  arti- 
ficial light,  with  the  fingers  extended  and  just  touching 

226  SIGNS   OF    DEATH. 

each  other,  and  then  looking  through  the  narrow  spaces 
between  the  fingers  to  see  if  there  be  there  a  scarlet 
line  of  light.  The  theory  is  that  if  there  be  such  a 
line  of  scarlet  colour  there  is  some  circulation  still  in 
progress,  and  therefore  evidence  of  vital  action,  whilst  if 
there  be  no  illumination,  then  the  circulation  has  ceased, 
and  death  has  occurred.  The  illustration  I  am  about  to 
give  indicates,  however,  that  this  test  must  be  received 
with  the  utmost  caution.  The  facts  run  as  follows  :— 
I  was  called  in  January  last  to  visit  a  lady  seventy-three 
years  of  age,  suffering  from  chronic  bronchitis.  She 
had  often  suffered  at  intervals  from  similar  attacks 
during  a  period  of  twenty-five  years.  The  present  attack 
was  very  severe,  and  as  she  was  obviously  in  a  state  of 
senile  decrepitude  her  symptoms  naturally  gave  rise  to 
considerable  anxiety.  Nevertheless  she  rallied  and 
improved  so  much  that  after  a  few  days  my  attendance 
was  no  longer  required.  I  heard  nothing  more  of  this 
lady  until  February  6 — a  period  of  three  weeks — when 
I  was  summoned  early  in  the  morning  to  see  her 
immediately.  The  messenger  told  me  that  she  had 
retired  to  bed  in  the  usual  way,  and  had  apparently  died 
in  the  night,  but  that  she  looked  so  life-like  there  was 
great  doubt  whether  death  had  actually  taken  place. 
Within  half-an-hour  I  was  by  her  bedside  ;  there  was 
no  sign  of  breathing,  of  pulse,  or  of  heart-beat,  and 
the  hands,  slightly  flexed,  were  rather  rigid,  but  the 
countenance  looked  like  that  of  a  living  person,  the  eyes 
being  open  and  life-like.  I  believed  her  to  be  dead,  and 
that  the  rigidity  of  the  upper  limbs  indicated  commenc- 
ing rigor  mortis ;  but  this  curious  fact  was  related  to 
me  by  a  near  relative,  that  once  before  she  had  passed 


into  a  death-like  state,  with  similar  symptoms,  even  to 
the  rigidity  of  the  arms  and  hands,  from  which  state  she 
had  recovered,  and  after  which  she  had  always  experi- 
enced the  direst  apprehension  of  being  buried  alive. 
Her  anxiety,  it  will  be  easily  conceived,  was  readily 
communicated  to  her  relatives,  who  urged  me  to  leave 
nothing  undone  for  determining  whether  life  was  or  was 
not  extinct.  Under  the  circumstances  I  suggested  that 
Dr.  (now  Sir)  Benjamin  Ward  Richardson,  who  has 
made  the  proofs  of  death  a  special  study,  should  be 
summoned.  He  soon  arrived,  and  submitted  the  body 
to  all  the  tests  in  order.  ...  Of  the  nine  tests, 
eight  distinctly  declared  that  death  was  absolute  ;  the 
exception,  the  fluidity  of  the  blood,  being  a  phenomenon 
quite  compatible  with  blood  preternaturally  fluid  and  at 
a  low  temperature,  even  though  death  had  occurred. 
There  now  remained  the  diaphanous  test,  which  we 
carried  out  by  the  aid  of  a  powerful  reflector  lamp, 
yielding  an  excellent  and  penetrating  light  To  our 
surprise  the  scarlet  line  of  light  between  the  fingers  was 
as  distinct  as  it  was  in  our  own  hands  subjected  to  the 
same  experiment.  The  mass  of  evidence  was  of  course 
distinctly  to  the  effect  that  death  was  complete  ;  but,  to 
make  assurance  doubly  sure,  we  had  the  temperature  of 
the  room  raised  and  the  body  carefully  watched  until 
signs  of  decomposition  had  set  in. 

"  The  results  of  these  experimental  tests  were  satis- 
factory, as  following  and  corroborating  each  other  in 
eight  out  of  the  ten  different  lines  of  procedure  ;  but 
the  point  of  my  paper  is  to  show  the  utter  inadequacy 
of  the  diaphanous  test,  upon  which  some  are  inclined 
entirely  to  rely.  Sir  Benjamin  Richardson  has  reported 

228  SIGNS    OF    DEATH. 

an  instance  in  which  the  test  applied  to  the  hand  of 
a  lady  who  had  simply  fainted  gave  no  evidence  of 
the  red  line ;  she  therefore,  on  that  test  alone,  might 
have  been  declared  dead.  In  my  case  the  reverse  was 
presented  ;  the  body  was  dead,  whilst  the  red  line 
supposed  to  indicate  life  was  perfectly  visible.  Hence 
the  test  might  possibly  lead  to  a  double  error,  and 
ought  never  of  itself  to  be  relied  upon. 

"It  is  a  question  worthy  of  consideration  whether 
the  colouration  observed  was  due  to  the  fluid  state  of 
the  blood  after  death  ;  it  is  not  unreasonable  to  suppose 
so,  but  I  prefer  merely  to  offer  the  suggestion  without 
further  comment." 

Orfila,  "  Medicine  Legale,"  vol.  i.,  p.  478,  fourth 
edition,  observes  : — 

"  This  sign  can  be  of  no  use,  because  it  is  easy  to 
prove  that  the  fingers  of  corpses  placed  between  the 
eye  and  the  flame  of  a  candle  are  transparent,  even 
when  this  experiment  is  made  one  or  two  days  after 


In  the  fourth  (and  last)  edition  of  his  able  and  most 
instructive  work  on  "  Cremation,"  Sir  Henry  Thompson 
admits  "  that  there  is  but  one  really  trustworthy  proof 
that  death  has  occurred  in  any  given  instance,  viz., 
the  presence  of  a  manifest  sign  of  commencing  decom- 
position. This  condition  is  always  ascertainable,  at  all 
events  to  the  professional  eye,  and  it  should  always  be 
verified  before  a  certificate  of  death  is  signed." 

This  view  is  corroborated  by  those  who  are  fitted  to 
speak  with  authority  on  the  subject.  Dr.  Roger  S. 
Chew,  of  Calcutta,  whose  experiences  have  been  already 


referred  to,  says :  "  Numerous  experiments  have  been 
suggested  as  means  of  ascertaining  whether  a  body  is 
really  dead  or  whether  the  animation  is  temporarily 
suspended ;  but,  though  these  suggestions  may  col- 
lectively yield  a  correct  diagnosis,  still  they  are  valueless 
when  separately  considered,  and  cannot  compare  with 
the  '  putrefaction  test.' " 

Dr.  Hilton  Fagge,  in  his  "  Principles  and  Practice  of 
Medicine,"  vol.  i.,  p.  19,  writing  of  cases  where  great 
uncertainty  exists  as  to  whether  life  is  extinct  or  merely 
suspended,  says: — 

"  /  believe  that  the  only  sign  of  death  which  is  both 
certain  to  manifest  itself  in  the  course  of  a  few  days,  and 
also  absolutely  conclusive  and  infallible,  is  the  occurrence 
of  putrefaction,  which  is  generally  first  indicated  by 
discolouration  of  the  surface  of  the  abdomen.  And  in 
any  case  admitting  of  doubt,  the  coffin  should  not  be 
closed  until  this  has  shown  itself."  (Italics  ours.) 

This  question  has  aroused  much  interest  also  in 
America.  In  an  article  in  the  Medical  Examiner,. 
Philadelphia,  vol.  vi.,  p.  610,  the  writer  says: — "A 
recent  French  reviewer  in  the  Gazette  Medicale  closes 
a  survey  of  the  differences  between  real  and  apparent 
death  by  the  following  remarks  :  '  Experience,'  says  he, 
'  has  shown  the  insufficiency  of  each  of  these  signs, 
with  one  exception — putrefaction.  The  absence  of 
respiration  and  circulation,  the  absence  of  contractility 
and  sensibility,  general  loss  of  heat,  the  hippocratic 
face,  the  cold  sweat  spreading  over  the  body,  cadaveric 
discolouration,  relaxation  of  the  sphincters,  loss  of 
elasticity,  the  flattening  of  the  soft  parts  on  which  the 
body  re.sts,  the  softness  and  flaccidity  of  the  eyes,  the 

230  SIGNS   OF    DEATH. 

opacity  of  the  fingers,  cadaveric  rigidity,  the  expulsion 
of  alimentary  substances  from  the  mouth — all  these 
signs  combined  or  isolated  may  present  themselves  in 
an  individual  suffering  only  from  apparent  death.' " 

Dr.  Gannal,  in  "  Signes  de  la  Mort,"  p.  31,  bears  out 
this  view: — 

u  I  share  the  opinion  of  the  majority  of  authors  who 
have  written  on  this  subject,  and  I  consider  putrefaction 
as  the  only  certain  sign  of  death."  The  author  then 
shows  that  all  other  signs  are  uncertain,  and  adds  "  that 
it  is  possible,  by  taking  certain  measures,  to  wait  until 
putrefaction  is  well  manifest,  without  injuring  the  public 
health."  If  the  attending  medical  practitioner  could 
always  be  relied  upon  to  look  for  any  such  combination 
of  signs  as  above  suggested,  there  would  be  much  less 
danger  of  premature  burial  than  at  present  almost 
everywhere  prevails;  but  personal  investigation  obliges 
the  author  deliberately  to  declare  that  these  are  looked 
for  only  in  a  comparatively  few  instances. 

"  EccJiyuwsis,  or  post-mortem  stains,"  writes  Dr.  Chew, 
"  are  sometimes  of  value,  but  frequently  they  do  not 
appear,  even  though  there  are  strong  evidences  of  putre- 
faction having  set  in,  and  in  some  cases  this  cadaveric 
lividity,  as  it  is  termed,  may  be  the  result  of  violence 
received  before  animation  was  suspended,  and,  the  vital 
spark  not  having  been  extinguished  though  the  body 
was  apparently  dead,  ecchymosis  had  asserted  itself  as 
a  process  of  life,  and  not  death." 

Dr.  Franz  Hartmann,  whose  monograph1  has  excited 

1  "  Premature  Burial  :  An  Examination  into  the  Occult  Causes  of 
Apparent  Death,  Trance,  and  Catalepsy."  By  Franz  Hartmann,  M.D. 
Second  edition.  (London:  Swan  Sonnenschein  &  Co.  One  shilling.) 


much    attention    both    in    the    English    and    American 
Press,  observes: — 

"  Apparent  death  is  a  state  that  resembles  real  death 
so  closely  that  even  the  most  experienced  persons 
believe  such  a  person  to  be  really  dead.  In  many 
cases  not  even  the  most  experienced  physician,  coroner, 
or  undertaker  can  distinguish  a  case  of  apparent  death 
from  real  death,  neither  by  external  examination  nor 
by  means  of  the  stethoscope,  nor  by  any  of  the  various 
tests  which  have  been  proposed  by  this  or  that  writer, 
for  all  those  tests  have  been  proved  fallible,  and  it  is 
now  useless  to  discuss  them  at  length,  because  many  of 
the  most  experienced  members  of  the  medical  profession 
have  already  agreed  that  there  is  no  certain  sign  that  a 
person  is  really  and  not  apparently  dead,  except  the 
beginning  of  a  certain  stage  of  putrefaction.  All  other 
tests  ought  to  be  set  down  as  delusive  and  unreliable." 


Sir  Benjamin  Ward  Richardson  read  a  paper  before 
the  Medical  Society  of  London  on  "  The  Absolute 
Signs  and  Proofs  of  Death,"  published  (in  1889)  in 
No.  21  of  the  Asclepiad.  The  circumstance  which 
originated  his  investigation  was  a  case  of  the  revival  of 
an  apparently  dead  child  immediately  before  the  funeral. 
Dr.  Richardson  has  seen  persons  apparently  dead,  and 
presenting  all  the  signs  of  death,  but  who  were  really 
living.  Amongst  these  he  cites  the  following:— 

"  A  medical  man  found  dead,  as  it  was  presumed, 
from  an  excessive  dose  of  chloral.  To  all  common 
observation  this  gentleman  was  dead.  There  was  no 
sign  of  respiration;  it  was  very  difficult  for  an  ear  so 

232  SIGNS    OF    DEATH. 

long  trained  as  my  own  to  detect  the  sounds  of  the 
heart;  there  was  no  pulse  at  the  wrist,  and  the  tem- 
perature of  the  body  had  fallen  to  97°  Fahr.  In  this 
condition  the  man  had  lain  for  some  hours  before  my 
arrival;  and  yet,  under  the  simple  acts  of  raising  the 
warmth  of  the  room  to  84°  Fahr.  and  injecting  warm 
milk  and  water  into  the  stomach,  he  rallied  slowly  out 
of  the  sleep,  and  made  a  perfect  recovery." 

Medical  practitioners  frequently  assert  that  the 
signs  of  death  are  quite  easy  and  impossible  to  mis- 
take. Dr.  Richardson,  who  has  had  the  best  of  reasons, 
as  already  shown,  for  observation  and  investigation, 
holds  a  different  opinion,  and  enumerates  the  signs  of 
death  as  follows  : — 

(1)  Respiratory  failure,  including  absence   of  visible 
movements   of  the   chest,    absence    of    the    respiratory 
murmur,  absence  of  evidence  of  transpiration  of  water- 
vapour  from  the  lungs  by  breath. 

(2)  Cardiac    failure,    including    absence    of    arterial 
pulsation,  of  cardiac  motion,  and  of  cardiac  sounds. 

(3)  Absence  of  turgescence  or  filling  of  the  veins  on 
making  pressure  between  them  and  the  heart. 

(4)  Reduction  of  the  temperature  of  the  body  below 
the  natural  standard. 

(5)  Rigor  mortis  and  muscular  collapse. 

(6)  Coagulation  of  the  blood. 

(7)  Absence  of  signs  of  rust  or  oxidation  of  a  bright 
steel  blade,  after  plunging  it  deep  into  the  tissues.    (The 
needle  test  of  Cloquet  and  Laborde.) 

(8)  Absence  of  red  colour  in  semi-transparent  parts 
under  the  influence  of  a  powerful  stream  of  light. 

SIR  B.  w.  RICHARDSON'S  "SIGNS."  233 

(9)  Absence  of  muscular  contraction  under  the  stimu- 
lus of  galvanism,  of  heat,  and  of  puncture. 

(10)  Absence  of  red  blush  of  the  skin  after  subcutaneous 
injection  of  ammonia  ( Monti verdi's  test). 

(n)  Putrefactive  decomposition. 

Sir  Benjamin  sums  up  as  follows  : — 

"If  all  these  signs  point  to  death — if  there  be  no 
indications  of  respiratory  function  ;  if  there  be  no  signs 
of  movement  of  the  pulse  or  heart,  and  no  sounds  of  the 
heart ;  if  the  veins  of  the  hand  do  not  enlarge  on  the 
distal  side  of  the  fillet ;  if  the  blood  in  the  veins  contains 
a  coagulum  ;  if  the  galvanic  stimulus  fails  to  produce 
muscular  contraction;  if  the  injection  of  ammonia  causes 
a  dirty  brown  blotch — the  evidence  may  be  considered 
conclusive  that  death  is  absolute.  If  these  signs  leave 
any  doubt,  or  even  if  they  leave  no  doubt,  one  further 
point  of  practice  should  be  carried  out.  The  body 
should  be  kept  in  a  room,  the  temperature  of  which  has 
been  raised  to  a  heat  of  84°  Fahr.,  with  moisture  diffused 
through  the  air;  and  in  this  warm  and  moist  atmosphere 
it  should  remain  until  distinct  indications  of  putrefactive 
decomposition  have  set  in. 

The  Medical  Press  and  Circular  of  October  2Othr 
1897,  commenting  upon  the  above,  says:  —  "It  is 
obvious  from  this  that  Sir  B.  W.  Richardson,  who 
was  admittedly  a  very  high,  if  not  the  greatest, 
authority  on  the  subject,  was  of  opinion  that  there 
is  only  one  absolute  sign  of  death,  and  that  there  is 
more  or  less  risk  where  this  is  not  waited  for.  In 
his  own  case  he  left  strict  instructions  with  his  family 
that  after  supposed  death  his  body  was  not  to  be 

234  SIGNS    OF    DEATH. 

removed  until  this  unequivocal  test  was  manifest ;  and 
his  wishes  were  religiously  observed." 


In  the  Royal  Decree  issued  by  the  Government  for 
examining  the  dead  in  Wurtemberg,  dated  January  24, 
1882  (Dienst-  Vorschriften  fur  Leichenschauer,  Stuttgart, 
1885),  various  signs  and  experiments  for  enabling  the 
official  inspector  of  deaths  to  ascertain  if  actual  death  . 
has  taken  place  are  laid  down.  Among  these  are  : — 

(1)  "The   cessation   of  sensibility    may   be  assumed 
if,   on   raising  the  eyelid,  the   pupil   remains   unaltered 
when  a  lighted  candle  is  held  close  to  it ;  or  if  pungent 
odours,   such    as    those   derived    from    onions,    vinegar, 
volatile   ammonia,  or    by  severe    friction    of  the   chest, 
arms,  or  soles  of  the  feet,  the  application  of  mustard, 
or  burning  tinder,  or  if  sealing-wax  dropped  upon  the 
chest  produces  no  reaction,  and  particularly  if  in  the 
latter  case  the  skin  does  not  blister. 

(2)  "  The   stoppage  of  the   circulation   of  the   blood, 
apart  from  the  absence  of  heart-beating,  if,  after  tying 
a   tight    bandage   around    the   arm,    the   veins    do   not 
swell  up,  upon  the  hands   being  firmly  gripped  ;    also 
if,  upon  pricking  the  lips,   no  blood  escapes  ;    further- 
more,   if,    on    holding    the    hand    in    front    of  a    bright 
light    (the    diaphanous    test),    the    finger-tips    are    no 
longer  translucent  as  in  the  living." 

Nor  should  the  inspector  ever  neglect  to  examine 
the  heart  to  ascertain  the  complete  absence  of  all 
sound,  and  to  test  the  absence  of  breath  by  other 


The  rescript  further  adds  that  these  experiments 
"  may  not  furnish  absolute  proof  of  death,"  and 
describes  what  further  proceedings  to  institute.  These 
are  referred  to  in  this  volume  in  the  chapter  devoted 
to  Death-Certification. 



An  editorial  note  in  the  Lancet,  January  29,  1887, 
p.  233,  shows  the  difficulty  of  distinguishing  real  from 
apparent  death : — "  It  was  only  last  year  that  we 
commented  in  our  columns  upon  the  '  signs  of  death/ 
drawing  attention  to  the  more  important  criteria  by 
which  a  skilful  observer  may  avoid  mistaking  cases  of 
so-called  suspended  animation  from  actual  decease. 
Quite  recently  two  instances  have  been  recorded,  in 
which,  if  report  be  true,  it  would  seem  there  is  still 
room  for  maturing  the  judgment  upon  the  question 
herein  raised.  At  Saumur  a  young  man  afflicted  with 
a  contagious  disease  apparently  died  suddenly.  His 
body  was  enshrouded  and  coffined,  but  as  the  under- 
taker's men  were  carrying  the  *  remains '  to  their  last 
resting-place  they  heard  what  they  believed  to  be  a 
knocking  against  the  coffin-lid,  and  the  sound  was 
repeated  in  the  grave.  Instead  of  testing  at  once  the 
•evidence  of  their  senses,  they,  in  accordance  with 
judicial  custom,  sent  for  the  Mayor,  in  whose  presence 
the  lid  was  removed  from  the  coffin.  Whereupon,  to 
the  horror  of  the  spectators,  it  was  observed  that  the 
dead  man  had  only  just  succumbed  to  asphyxia.  The 
above  narrative  seems  on  the  face  of  it  too  ghastly  to 
be  true,  especially  as  the  occupant  of  the  coffin  must 
have  been  shut  up  in  a  space  containing  oxygen  in 

236  SIGNS    OF    DEATH. 

quantity  totally  inadequate  to  sustain  an  approximation 
to  ordinary  breathing.  But  in  cataleptic  and  similar 
states  the  organic  functions  are  reduced  to  the  lowest 
ebb,  and  history  records  several  instances  in  which, 
for  a  time  at  least,  the  determination  of  the  living  state 
was  a  matter  of  uncertainty.  In  our  issue  of  the  I5th 
inst,  p.  129,  the  reader  will  find  an  account  of  '  Post- 
mortem Irritability  of  Muscle,'  in  which  the  pheno- 
menon was  manifested  in  a  marked  degree  t\vo  hours 
after  death  from  a  chronic  wasting  disorder — a  condition 
which  favours  early  extinction  of  vital  action  in  muscle. 
It  may  be  argued,  then,  with  some  show  of  reasonable- 
ness, that  it  is  quite  possible  for  the  heart  to  stand 
still,  as  it  were,  and  yet  retain  the  power  of  action, 
although  experience  tells  us  but  little  on  the  question 
as  regards  the  human  subject.  Experiments  on  the 
lower  animals,  however,  show  that  over-distention  of 
the  right  cavities  of  the  heart  causes  cessation  of 
cardiac  contraction,  and  that  relief  from  the  distention 
may  be  followed  by  resumption  of  the  function  of 
contractibility.  It  must  not  be  forgotten  that  an 
analogous  condition  is  witnessed  at  times  in  patients 
suffering  from  capillary  bronchitis  or  other  physical 
states  underlying  acute  distension  of  the  right  heart ; 
for,  in  these  cases,  venesection  is  not  uncommonly 
instrumental  in  arresting  the  rapidly  failing  cardiac 
contractions.  The  second  case  of  apparent  death 
alluded  to  above  happened  in  '  the  land  of  big  things/ 
An  inhabitant  of  Mount  Joy,  Paramatta,  was  believed 
to  be  dead,  and  his  supposed  remains  were  about  to 
be  committed  to  the  earth,  when  a  mourning  relative 
startled  the  bystanders  by  exclaiming,  '  I  must  see  my 


father  once  more ;  something  tells  me  he  is  not  dead.1 
The  coffin  was  taken  from  the  grave  to  the  sexton's 
tool-house,  and  there  opened,  and  was  found  to  contain 
a  living  inmate,  who  justified  the  presentiment  of  his 
son  by  '  slowly  recovering.'  As  no  mention  is  made 
in  either  case  of  the  period  that  elapsed  between  the 
occurrence  of  apparent  death  and  the  body  being 
placed  in  the  coffin,  or  of  the  time  during  which  the 
encasement  lasted,  special  and  minute  criticism  is 
uncalled  for.  Enough  has  been  said  on  the  subject  to 
emphasize  the  exhortation,  '  Get  knowledge,  and  with 
all  thy  getting  get  understanding.' " 


The  British  Medical  Journal,  of  September  28,  1895, 
in  a  leading  article  on  the  "  Signs  of  Death,"  says  :— 

"  The  question  of  the  possibility  of  the  interment  of 
living  beings  has  recently  been  exercising  the  minds  of  a 
portion  of  the  public,  whose  fears  have  found  expression 
in  a  series  of  letters  to  some  of  the  daily  papers.  It  is  a 
matter  of  regret  that  so  much  irresponsible  nonsense 
and  such  hysterical  outpourings  should  find  a  place  in 
the  columns  of  our  great  daily  press.  No  attempt  at 
the  production  of  evidence  in  support  of  their  beliefs 
or  fears  has  been  made  by  the  majority  of  writers, 
whilst  the  cases  mentioned  by  the  few  are  either  the 
inventions  of  the  credulous  or  ignorant,  or  are  destitute 
of  foundation.  It  cannot  be  said  that  the  few  medical 
men  who  have  joined  in  this  public  correspondence 
have  either  contributed  any  useful  information  or  have 
seriously  attempted  to  allay  the  fears  of  the  public.  One 
medical  gentleman  managed  to  earn  for  himself  a  cheap 

238  SIGNS    OF    DEATH. 

notoriety  by  employing,  with  very  scanty  acknowledg- 
ment of  the  source,  copious  extracts  from  Dr.  Gowers' 
article  on  '  Trance '  in  Ouain's  '  Dictionary  of  Medicine/ 

"  The  possibility  of  apparent  death  being  taken  for 
real  death  can  only  be  admitted  when  the  decision  of 
the  reality  of  death  is  left  to  ignorant  persons.  We  are 
quite  unprepared  to  admit  the  possibility  of  such  a 
mistake  occurring  in  this  country  to  a  medical  practi- 
tioner armed  with  the  methods  for  the  recognition  of 
death  that  modern  science  has  placed  at  his  disposal. 
Moreover,  even  by  the  ignorant  the  reality  of  death  can 
only  be  questioned  during  the  period  preceding  putre- 
faction. During  this  period  various  signs  of  death 
appear  which,  taken  collectively,  allow  of  an  absolute 
opinion  as  to  the  reality  of  death  being  given.  To  each 
of  these,  as  a  sign  of  death,  exception  may  perhaps  be 
individually  taken,  but  a  medical  opinion  is  formed  from 
a  conjunction  of  these  signs,  and  not  from  the  presence 
of  an  individual  one." 

The  writer  must  surely  have  overlooked  the  able 
treatises  by  Winslow,  Kempner,  Russell  Fletcher, 
Bouchut,  Hartmann,  Gannal,  and  others,  supported 
by  evidence  in  the  aggregate  of  thousands  of  cases 
of  premature  burial,  or  narrow  escapes,  or  have  for- 
gotten the  dreadful  cases  which  have  appeared  from 
time  to  time  in  the  columns  of  the  British  Medical 
Journal  itself.  Commenting  upon  the  case  of  a 
child  nearly  buried  alive,  this  medical  authority  in 
its  issue  of  October  31,  1885,  under  the  head  of 
"  Death  or  Coma  ? "  sensibly  refers  to  some  of  the 
difficulties  in  distinguishing  apparent  from  real  death 
as  follows  :  — 


"  The  close  similarity  which  is  occasionally  seen  to 
connect  the  appearance  of  death  with  that  of  exhaustion 
following  disease  was  lately  illustrated  in  a  somewhat 
striking  manner.  An  infant,  seized  with  convulsions, 
was  supposed  to  have  died  about  three  weeks  ago  at 
Stamford  Hill.  After  five  days'  interval,  preparations 
were  being  made  for  its  interment,  when,  at  the  grave's 
mouth,  a  cry  was  heard  to  come  from  the  coffin.  The 
lid  was  taken  off,  and  the  child  was  found  to  be  alive, 
was  taken  home,  and  is  recovering.  Such  is  the  pub- 
lished account  of  the  latest  recorded  case  of  suspended 
animation.  We  need  not  now  attempt  a  dissertation  on 
the  physical  meaning  of  coma.  It  is  well  known  that 
this  condition  may  last  for  considerable  periods,  and 
may  at  times,  even  to  the  practised  eye,  wear  very  much 
the  same  aspect  as  death.  In  the  present  instance,  its 
association  with  some  degree  of  convulsion  may  easily 
have  been  mistaken  by  relatives,  dreading  the  worst,  for 
the  rigid  stillness  of  rigor  mortis.  This  is  the  more 
likely  since  the  latter  state  is  apt  to  be  a  transient  one 
in  infants,  though  it  is  said  to  be  unusually  well  marked 
in  death  from  convulsions.  One  cannot,  however,  help 
thinking  that  the  presence  of  the  various  signs  of  death 
was  not,  in  this  case,  very  carefully  inquired  into.  It  is 
hardly  possible  that,  had  the  other  proofs  as  well  as  that 
of  stiffening  been  sought  for,  they  would  have  been 
missed.  //  is  true  that  hardly  any  one  sign  short  of 
putrefaction  can  be  relied  upon  as  infallible.  In  actual 
death,  however,  one  may  confidently  reckon  on  the 
co-existence  of  more  than  one  of  these.  After  a  period 
of  five  days,  not  one  should  have  been  wanting.  Besides 
rigor  mortis,  the  total  absence  of  which,  even  in  forms  of 

240  SIGNS    OF    DEATH. 

death  which  are  said  not  to  show  it,  we  take  leave  to 
doubt,  the  post-mortem  lividity  of  dependent  pares  affords 
sure  proof,  as  its  absence  suggests  a  doubt,  of  death. 
Then  there  is  the  eye,  sunken,  with  glairy  surface,  flaccid 
cornea,  and  dilated  insensitive  pupil.  Most  practitioners, 
probably,  are  accustomed  to  rely  upon  stethoscopic 
evidence  of  heart-action  or  respiration.  These  alone, 
indeed,  are  almost  always  sufficient  to  decide  the 
question  of  vitality,  if  they  be  watched  for  during  one 
or  two  minutes.  There  is  no  information  as  to  whether 
the  child  so  nearly  buried  alive  was  seen  by  a  medical 
man.  It  is  difficult  to  believe  that,  if  it  had  been,  some 
sign  of  life  would  not  have  been  observed.  Still,  the 
case  is  a  teaching  one,  even  for  medical  men,  and  warns 
us  to  look  for  a  combination  of  known  tests  where  any 
doubt  exists  as  to  the  fact  of  death."  The  italics  are 


Prof.  Alex.  Wilder,  M.D.,  in  "  Perils  of  Premature 
Burial,"  p.  20,  says  : — "  The  signs  of  total  extinction 
of  life  are  not  so  unequivocal  as  many  suppose.  The 
apparent  cessation  of  respiration  and  circulation  do 
not  afford  the  entire  evidence,  for  the  external  senses 
are  not  sufficiently  acute  to  enable  us  to  detect  either 
respiration  or  circulation  in  the  smallest  degree  com- 
patible with  mere  existence.  Loss  of  heat  is  by  no 
means  conclusive  ;  for  life  may  continue,  and  recovery 
take  place,  when  no  perceptible  vital  warmth  exists." 

M.  B.  Gaubert,  in  "  Les  Chambres  Mortuaires 
d'Attente,"  p.  187,  Paris,  1895,  says: — "One  of  the 
most  celebrated  physicians  of  the  Paris  hospitals, 


according  to  Dr.  Lignieres,  declares  that,  out  of  twenty 
certified  deaths,  only  one  presented  indubitable  charac- 
teristics of  absolute  death." 

The  difficulty  of  diagnosis  which  in  many  cases  must 
be  allowed  renders  the  obligation  and  necessity  for  a 
radical  change  in  our  methods  of  treating  the  supposed 
dead  a  very  urgent  one.  Medical  writers,  whilst  ad- 
mitting the  unsatisfactory  nature  of  the  current  practice 
of  medical  certification,  allege  that  the  remedy  lies 
with  Parliament  to  make  compulsory  a  personal 
medical  inspection  of  the  dead,  and  to  allow  a  fee 
as  compensation  for  the  trouble.  This,  however,  would 
be  very  far  from  meeting  the  difficulty.  How  many 
general  practitioners  would  be  willing  to  submit  half- 
a-dozen,  say,  of  the  eleven  tests  of  death  formulated 
by  Sir  Benjamin  Ward  Richardson,  in  any  given  case, 
and  if  willing,  how  many,  having  regard  to  the  fact 
that  these  tests  are  not  taught  in  the  Medical  Schools, 
and  form  no  part  of  the  usual  medical  curriculum, 
would  be  competent  to  make  them  with  the  requisite 
skill  ?  In  most  of  the  Continental  States  there  are 
State-appointed  surgeons  to  examine  the  dead,  medecins 
verificateurs,  and  in  some  of  these — Wurtemberg,  for 
instance — the  official  is  obliged  to  examine  the  corpse 
several  times  before  his  certificate  is  made  out.  But 
notwithstanding  this  careful  official  inspection,  cases 
of  premature  burial  and  narrow  escapes  are  telegraphed 
by  Renter  and  Dalziel  every  now  and  then  to  the 
English  Press,  as  we  have  seen,  and  additional  details, 
with  the  names  and  addresses  of  the  victims,  are 
furnished  by  responsible  special  correspondents. 

The  best  proof  that  one  can  give  of  the  uncertainty 

242  SIGNS    OF    DEATH. 

of  the  signs  of  death  is  the  great  divergence  of  opinion 
amongst  medical  experts.  Dr.  Gannal  in  "  Signes  de 
la  Mort,"  Paris,  1890,  p.  27,  observes: — "If  any  of 
these  signs  had  presented  characters  of  absolute 
certainty,  it  is  unquestionable  that  the  unanimity  of 
authors  would  have  recognised  it  ;  now,  there  is  none. 
One  sign  held  to  be  good  by  some,  is  declared  bad  by 
others."  Dr.  Gannal  affirms  with  iteration  that  there 
is  only  one  unequivocal  sign  and  proof  of  dissolution — 
decomposition.  All  authorities  agree  that  whatever  de- 
gree of  doubt  attends  the  ordinary  appearance  of  death, 
none  dispute  that  this  amounts  to  a  demonstration. 


The  Lisbon  correspondent  of  the  Daily  Illustrated 
Mirror,  on  March  15,  1904,  details  a  strange  case  which 
occurred  at  a  small  village  called  Montouro,  in  northern 
Portugal  :— 

"  An  old  villager  died,  and,  after  having  been  pre- 
pared for  burial,  a  nephew  of  his,  who  was  a  barber, 
was  called  in  at  night  to  shave  him,  as  is  customary 
here.  The  supposed  corpse  was  merely  in  a  cataleptic 
trance,  and  as  soon  as  the  barber  put  cold  water  on  his 
face  he  sat  up  and  began  to  talk  wildly.  The  barber 
was  so  terrified  that  he  became  raving  mad,  and,  rushing 
screaming  from  the  house,  called  upon  the  villagers  to 
see  the  miracle  which  he  had  worked." 

When  standing  round  the  bed  of  a  sick  patient,  re- 
duced to  a  state  of  coma  or  suspended  animation,  to 
which  death  is  the  expected  termination,  as  soon  as 
the  doctor  utters  the  fatal  words  "  all  is  over,"  no  one 
present  thinks  of  doubting  the  verdict,  or  putting  it 

THE    DANGER    OF    HASTE.  243 

to  the  test  Mr.  Clarke  Irvine,  who  has  had  a  wide 
experience,  writing  in  the  Banner  of  Light,  December 
14,  1895,  Boston,  U.S.,  says:— 

"  I  have  known  of  hundreds  of  deaths  in  my  experi- 
ence, and  never  have  I  known  of  any  instance  wherein 
a  bystander  has  doubted  save  once,  and  then  the  person 
supposed  dead  was  revived,  and  is  now  living  out  in 
Colorado.  The  mere  accident  of  a  stranger  coming  in 
just  previous  to  the  enclosing  in  a  coffin  prevented  the 
man  from  the  awful  fate  of  burial  alive,  so  far  as  we 
can  see. 

"  In  one  other,  the  supposed  dead  man  came  to  life 
a  little  before  the  time  set  for  his  funeral,  by  the 
accident  of  someone  seizing  hold  of  his  foot ;  he  is 
still  living,  and  a  resident  of  this  country.  The  case 
was  widely  published  in  the  newspapers  after  he  was 
interviewed  by  a  reporter  in  Chicago,  where  the 
rescued  man  was  visiting  at  the  time  of  the  Great 
Fair.  He  is  known  as  Judge  William  Poynter.  I 
saw  him  a  few  days  ago,  and  have  heard  him  relate 
the  experience. 

"  The  case  of  the  little  girl  who  was  rescued  while  the 
funeral  was  in  progress,  at  St.  Joseph,  Missouri,  I  have 
already  contributed  to  The  Banner.  These  people  were 
saved  by  a  mere  chance;  how  many  have  passed  under- 
ground forever,  of  whom  nothing  was  ever  suspected  ! 
All  through  the  country  people  are  dying  or  apparently 
dying,  or  falling  into  death-like  trances  daily,  and  being 
placed  in  their  coffins  as  a  matter  of  course,  and  hurried 
to  and  into  their  graves,  as  of  course  also — and  in  the 
very  nature  of  things  it  must  be  and  must  have  been 
that  hundreds  upon  hundreds  have  been  and  are  being 

244  SIGNS    OF    DEATH. 

consigned  to  that  most  awful  of  all  the  dooms  possible. 
The  horror  of  the  thing  is  simply  unspeakable." 


The  following  are  extracts  from  the  Police  Regulations 
for  the  inspection  of  the  dead  and  the  prevention  of 
premature  burial  in  Bavaria,  issued  by  the  Royal 
State- Ministry  for  Home  Affairs:— 

§  4- 

In  public  hospitals,  penitentiaries,  charitable  or  other  similar 
homes  or  institutions,  the  duty  of  inspection  falls  upon  the 
physician  in  chief. 

Outside  these  institutions  the  inspectors  must  be  chosen,  in  the 
first  instance,  from  among  physicians,  after  them  surgeons,  former 
assistants  of  military  hospitals,  and  lastly,  in  default  of  such,  from 
lay  people.  The  latter  must,  however,  be  of  undoubted  respecta- 
bility, and,  before  their  appointment,  must  be  properly  instructed 
by  the  district  physician,  and  subjected  from  time  to  time  to  an 

§  6. 

As  a  rule  the  inspection  of  dead  bodies  must  be  made  once  if 
by  doctors,  and  twice  if  by  laymen.  In  communities  which  possess 
a  mortuary  a  second  inspection  has  to  be  made,  even  though  the 
regular  inspection  has  previously  been  made  by  doctors  or  laymen. 

§  7- 

The  first  inspection  has  to  be  made  as  soon  as  possible  after 
death,  and,  where  practicable,  within  twenty-four  hours,  and  in 
cases  described  under  §  6,  sec.  2,  at  least  before  removal  of  the 
body  to  the  mortuary. 

The  second  inspection  must  take  place  just  before  burial. 

§  8. 

The  body,  until  the  arrival  of  the  inspector,  must  be  left  in 
an  undisturbed  position,  with  the  face  uncovered,  and  free  from 
closely-fitting  garments. 


The  instructions  of  the  inspector,  for  the  resuscitation  of  a 
body  suspected  of  apparent  death  only,  are  to  be  followed  most 

§  9- 

The  inspector  has  to  give  a  certificate  of  corpse  inspection 
confirmatory  of  his  inspection,  but  he  must  only  issue  the  same 
if  he  has  fully  ascertained  the  actuality  of  death. 

§  10. 

(i)  As  a  rule  the  bodies  must  not  be  interred  before  the  lapse 
of  48  hours,  but  not  later  than  72  hours  after  death. 

The  police  authorities  may,  however,  at  the  recommendation 
of  the  corpse  inspector,  exceptionally  grant  permission  for  the 
burial  before  the  expiration  of  48  hours  if  a  post-mortem  dis- 
section has  taken  place,  also  if  decomposition  has  set  in,  and  if 
on  account  of  lack  of  room  the  body  has  to  be  preserved  in  an 
overcrowded  habitation. 

APPENDIX  to  the  Police  Instructions  as  to  Corpse 
Inspection  and  Time  of  Burial,  of  2Oth 
November,  1885. 


The  purpose  of  corpse  inspection  is  to  prohibit  the  conceal- 
ment of  deaths  by  violent  means  or  resulting  from  medical 
malpractices  ;  to  detect  infectious  diseases,  and  the  establishment 
of  correct  death  lists  ;  and  particularly  to  prevent  the  burial  of 
people  only  apparently  dead.  For  this  purpose  each  corpse  is  to 
be  closely  examined  on  the  first  inspection  as  to  any  signs  of 
death,  both  in  the  front  and  the  back  of  the  body. 


The  inspectors  have  primarily  to  establish  the  actuality  of 
death  by  observing  and  notifying  all  the  symptoms  accompanying 
or  following  the  decease. 


246  SIGNS    OF    DEATH. 

Indications  of  death  may  be  noted  : — 

(1)  If  there  is  no  indication  of  any  pulsation  noticeable,  either 
in  the  region  of  the  heart,  at   the  neck,  at   the  temples,  or  the 

(2)  If  the  eyelids  when   pulled  asunder  remain  open,  and  the 
eyes    themselves   appear   sunken    into   their   sockets,   dulled,  and 
lustreless,  also  if  the  eyeballs  feel  soft  and  relaxed. 

(3)  If  parts  of  the  body  are  pale  and  cold,  if  chin  and  nose 
are  pointed,  if  cheeks  and  temples  are  sunken. 

(4)  If  the  lower  jaw  hangs  down,  and  immediately  drops  again 
if  pushed  up,  or  if  the  muscles  feel  hard  and  stiff  (rigidity). 

(5)  If  the   skin   of  the  fingers  held  against  one  another,  held 
towards  light,  do  not  appear  reddish. 

(6)  If  a    feather   or    burning   candle   held   against   the  mouth 
shows  no  sign  of  motion,  or  if  there  is  no  sign  of  moisture  upon 
a  looking-glass  held  before  the  mouth. 

(7)  If  on    different   parts    of  the   body,    particularly   the   neck, 
back,  or  posterior,  or  the  undersurface  of  the  extremities,  there 
are  bluish-red  spots  (death  spots)  visible. 

(8)  If  the  skin,  particularly  at  the  sides  of  the  stomach,  show 
a  dirty-green  discolouration  (decomposition  spots). 

The  non-medical  inspector  has  to  observe  at  least  all  the 
symptoms  i  to  4. 

In  doubtful  cases  the  medical  inspectors  are  advised  to  test 
the  muscles  and  nerves  by  electric  currents. 


If  the  inspection  gives  rise  to  suspicions  of  apparent  death 
(Scheintod),  the  inspector  must  (if  he  is  not  himself  a  doctor) 
immediately  call  for  the  assistance  of  a  practised  physician,  so 
as  to  establish  the  actual  condition,  and  to  adopt  the  necessary 
measures  for  resuscitation,  as  follows  : — 

(i)  Opening  of  the  windows,  and  warming  the  room. 


(2)  Efforts  at  artificial  respiration. 

(3)  Applications   of  warm   mustard-plaisters   to  the  chest   and 
the  extremities. 

(4)  Rubbing  with  soft  brushes,  with  cloths  saturated  in  vinegar 
or  spirit  of  camphor,  also  with  hot  woollen  cloths. 

(5)  Irritation  of  the  throat  with  a  feather. 

(6)  Smelling  sal-ammoniac. 

(7)  Dropping  from   time   to  time   a   few  drops  of  "extract  of 
balm,"  or  similar  essences,  into  the  mouth. 

Unless  medical  aid  has  meanwhile  arrived,  the  application  of 
these  measures  must  be  continued  until  the  apparently  dead 
comes  back  to  life,  and  begins  to  swallow,  in  which  case  he 
ought  to  have  warm  broth,  tea,  or  wine,  or  until  there  is 
absolutely  no  doubt  as  to  the  total  ineffectiveness  of  all  attempts 
at  reanimation. 



THE  differences  observed  in  the  length  of  time  that 
persons  have  remained  in  this  condition  depended, 
doubtless,  upon  the  constitutional  peculiarities  of  the 
patients — such  as  strength  or  weakness — or  upon  the 
nature  of  the  disease  from  which  they  may  have 
suffered.  Struve,  in  his  Essay,  pp.  34-98,  says  "  that 
it  depends  upon  the  proportion  of  vital  power  in  the 
individual.  Hence  children  and  young  persons  will 
endure  longer  than  the  aged.  Also  upon  the  nature 
of  the  element  in  which  the  accident  happened,  whether 
it  contained  greater  or  less  proportion  of  oxygenated 
or  carbonic  acid  gas,  or  other  poisonous  vapours.  The 
latent  vital  power  seems  to  be  much  longer  preserved 
when  animation  has  been  suspended  by  cold.  A  man 
revived  after  being  under  snow  forty  hours.  Persons 
apparently  dead  sometimes  awake  after  an  interval  of 
seven  days,  as  was  the  case  with  Lady  Russell.  .  .  . 
In  the  female  sex,  the  suspension  of  vital  power, 
spasms,  fainting  fits,  etc.,  originating  from  a  hysterical, 
feeble  constitution,  are  not  rare,  nor  is  it  improbable 
that  the  state  of  apparent  death  may  be  of  longer 
duration  with  them  ;  nay,  it  may  be  looked  upon  as 
a  periodical  disorder,  in  which  all  susceptibility  of 
irritation  is  extinguished."  Struve  further  remarks, 
p.  98,  "  that  the  state  in  which  the  vital  power  is 
suspended,  or  in  which  there  is  a  want  of  susceptibility 


of  stimuli,  consists  of  infinite  modifications,  from  the 
momentary  transient  fainting  fit  to  a  death-like  torpor 
of  a  day's  duration.  The  susceptibility  of  irritation 
may  be  completely  suppressed,  and  the  apparently 
dead  may  be  insensible  of  the  strongest  stimuli,  such 
as  the  operation  of  the  knife  and  the  effects  of  a 
red-hot  iron." 

M.  Josat,  in  "  De  la  Mort  et  de  ses  Caracteres,"  gives 
the  result  of  his  own  observations  in  one  hundred  and 
sixty-two  instances,  in  which  apparent  death  lasted— 

In    7  from  36  to  42  hours. 

20  „     20  to  36 

47  „     15  to  20       „ 

58  „       8  to  15       „ 

30  „       2  to    8       „ 

The  order  of  frequency  of  diseases  in  which  these  oc- 
curred was  as  follows: — Asphyxia,  hysteria,  apoplexy, 
narcotism,  concussion  of  the  brain,  the  cases  of  concus- 
sion being  the  shortest. 


The  length  of  time  a  person  may  live  in  the  grave 
will  depend  upon  similar  concomitant  conditions  ;  but, 
all  things  considered,  a  person  buried  while  in  a  state 
of  trance,  catalepsy,  asphyxia,  narcotism,  nervous  shock, 
etc.,  and  in  any  of  the  other  states  that  cause  apparent 
death  without  passing  through  a  course  of  disease,  and 
that  occur  during  his  or  her  usual  health,  will  have  a 
longer  struggle  before  life  becomes  extinct  than  one 
whose  strength  had  been  exhausted  by  an  attack  of 


sickness.  Estimates  of  the  duration  of  such  a  struggle 
differ  considerably.  Some  writers  believe  that  "however 
intense,  it  must  be  short-lived."  As  to  the  prolongation 
of  the  horrible  suffering  incident  to  such  tragic  occur- 
rences, Dr.  Leonce  Lenormand,  in  his"Des  Inhumations 
Precipitees,"  pp.  2-4,  observes — "It  is  a  mistake  to  think 
that  a  living  person,  enclosed  in  a  narrow  box,  and 
covered  with  several  feet  of  earth,  would  succumb  to 
immediate  asphyxiation."1 

Dr.    Charles    Londe,    in    his    "  La    Mort   Apparente," 
remarks: — "It    has    been     calculated     that,    after    one 

1  "  Pour  se  convaincre  de  1'erreur  cm  1'on  tomberait  en  adoptant  cette 
opinion  populaire,  il  suffit  de  reflechir  d'abord  qu'un  cercueil  n'est  pas 
exactement  moule  sur  les  proportions  du  corps  qu'il  contient;  que,  par 
consequent,  tous  les  intervalles  sont  remplis  d'air  respirable,  en  quantite 
tres-grande,  egale  a-peu-pres  a  un  cube  dont  le  cute  aurait  50  centimetres 
de  hauteur.  Or,  chaque  inspiration  absorbe  environ  1,200  centimetres 
cubes  d'air  dont  1'oxygene  n'est  employe  dans  1'hematose  que  pour  sa 
cinquieme  partie,  le  reste  etant  rendu  pendant  1'expiration  ;  il  en  vesulte 
done  que  chaque  inspiration  ne  consomme  en  realite  que  240  centimetres 
cubes.  L'homme,  a  1'etat  normal,  respire  a-peu-pres  800  fois  par  heure ; 
et,  comme  un  cube  de  50  centimetres  de  cote  contient  125,000  centimetres 
cubes,  on  doit  conclure  que  cette  quantite  d'air  pent  suffire  a  520  inspira- 
tions normales,  c'est  a  dire  a  soutenir  la  vie  pendant  pres  de  trois  quarts 
d'heure.  Mais,  d'un  autre  cote,  il  est  demontre,  en  botanique,  que  1'air 
filtre  dans  la  terre;  celui  contenu  dans  le  cercueil  peut  done  en  partie  se 
renouveler.  On  doit  necessairement  tenir  compte  de  la  nature  du  terrain 
ou  le  cercueil  a  etc  depose;  s'il  est  sec,  leger  ou  sablonneux,  il  laissera 
penetrer,  circuler  pour,  ainsi  dire,  1'air  atmospherique  plus  facilement, 
que  des  terreg  humides,  grasses  ou  argileuses.  Ajoutons  enfin,  que  les 
quantites  determinees  plus  haut  pourraient  etre  reduites  de  plus  de  moitie, 
sans  causer  directement  la  mort.  On  voit  done  qu'un  homme  peut  vivre 
sous  terre  pendant  plusieurs  heures,  et  que  ce  temps  sera  d'autant  plus 
court  que  le  sujet  sera  plus  plethorique,  c'est-a-dire  predispose  aux  con- 
gestions cerebrales,  puisque,  dans  ce  cas,  ses  inspirations  seront  plus 
larges  et  plus  frequentes." 

LIFE    IN    THE    GRAVE.  251 

quarter  of  the  quantity  of  atmospheric  air  contained  in 
the  coffin — approximately  estimated  at  one  hundred 
and  twenty  litres — was  exhausted,  death  would  set  in; 
therefore  it  is  quite  certain  that,  if  the  shroud  is  thick, 
and  the  coffin  well  closed,  and  the  grave  impenetrable 
to  the  atmosphere,  life  could  not  last  more  than  forty 
to  sixty  minutes  after  inhumation.  But  is  not  that  a 
-century  of  torture  ?  " 

Some  allowance  should  be  made  for  the  persistence 
of  the  vital  energy,  which  continues  after  all  atmos- 
pheric air  is  cut  off.  "  Experiments  on  dogs  show 
that  the  average  duration  of  the  respiratory  move- 
ments after  the  animal  has  been  deprived  of  air  is 
four  minutes  five  seconds.  The  duration  of  the  heart's 
action  is  seven  minutes  eleven  seconds.  The  average 
of  the  heart's  action,  after  the  animal  has  ceased  to 
make  respiratory  efforts,  is  three  minutes  fifteen 
seconds.  These  experiments  further  showed  that  a 
dog  may  be  deprived  of  air  during  three  minutes 
fifty  seconds,  and  afterwards  recover  without  the  appli- 
cation of  artificial  means."  1 

Prof.  P.  Brouardel,  M.D.,  Paris,  in  "  La  Mort 
Subite,"  p.  35,  observes  that: — "  A  dog,  placed  in  a 
common  coffin,  lived  five  to  six  hours ;  but  a  dog 
occupies  less  room  than  a  man,  who,  in  such  a  coffin, 
when  closed,  would  not  have  more  than  one  hundred 
litres,  so  he  would  possibly  live  twenty  minutes.  I 
would  not  wish  anybody  to  pass  twenty  such  cruel 

"  Mr.  Bernard,   a   skilful    surgeon    of    Paris,  certified 

1  Report  on  "Suspended  Animation."     By  a  Committee  of  the  Royal 
Med.  Chirur.   Society,  July  12,   1862. 


that,  in  the  parish  of  Riol,  he  himself,  and  several 
other  bystanders,  saw  a  monk  of  the  Order  of  St. 
Francis,  who  had  been  buried  for  three  or  four  days, 
taken  from  his  grave  breathing  and  alive,  with  his 
arms  lacerated  near  the  swathes  employed  to  secure 
them  ;  but  he  died  immediately  after  his  releasement. 
This  gentleman  also  asserts  that  a  faithful  narrative 
of  so  memorable  an  accident  was  drawn  up  by  public 
authority,  and  that  the  raising  of  the  body  was  occa- 
sioned by  a  letter  written  from  one  of  the  monk's 
friends,  in  which  it  was  affirmed  that  he  was  subject 
to  paroxysms  of  catalepsy." — "  The  Uncertainty  of  the 
Signs  of  Death,"  by  Surgeon  M.  Cooper,  Dublin,  1748. 


In  a  volume  entitled  "  Information  Relative  to 
Persons  who  have  been  Buried  Alive,"  by  Heinrich 
Friedrich  Koppen,  Halle,  1799,  dedicated  to  Frederick 
William  III.,  King  of  Prussia,  and  Louise,  Queen  of 
Prussia,  are  the  nine  following  amongst  many  other 
cases  : — 

"  England. — Lady  Russell,  wife  of  a  colonel  in  the  army,  was 
considered  dead,  and  only  through  the  tender  affection  of  her 
husband  was  she  saved  from  living  burial.  He  would  not  allow 
her  to  be  taken  away  until  decomposition  would  absolutely  force 
him  to  do  so.  After  seven  days,  however,  in  the  evening,  when 
the  bells  were  ringing,  the  faithful  husband  had  the  triumph  to 
see  her  eyes  open  and  her  return  to  full  consciousness." 

"Halle,  Germany. — Medical  Professor  Junker,  in  Halle,  a  very 
humane  man,  had  a  corpse  of  a  suicide — by  hanging — delivered 
for  dissection  at  his  college.  He  was  placed  on  a  table  in  the 
dissecting  room,  and  covered  with  a  cloth.  About  midnight, 


while  the  professor  was  sitting  at  his  writing-table  in  an  adjoin- 
ing room,  he  heard  a  great  noise  in  the  dissecting  room,  and, 
fearing  that  cats  were  gnawing  at  the  corpses,  he  went  out,  and 
saw  the  cloth  in  a  disturbed  condition,  and  on  lifting  it  up 
found  the  corpse  missing.  As  all  the  doors  and  windows  were 
closed,  he  searched  the  room,  and  found  the  missing  one  crouch- 
ing in  a  corner,  trembling  with  cold,  in  the  terror  of  death. 
He  besought  the  professor  for  mercy,  help,  and  means  for 
escape,  as  he  was  a  deserter  from  the  army,  and  he  would  be 
severely  punished  if  caught.  After  consideration,  the  kind 
professor  clothed  him,  and  took  him  out  of  town  at  night  as 
his  own  servant — passing  the  guards — pretending  to  be  on  a 
professional  visit,  and  set  him  free  in  the  country.  Years  after- 
wards he  met  the  same  man  in  Hamburg  as  a  prosperous 

"  Leipsic. — The  wife  of  the  publisher,  Mathaus  Hornisch,  died, 
and,  according  to  the  custom  of  the  times,  the  coffin  was  opened- 
before  being  put  into  the  ground.  The  grave-digger  noticed 
golden  rings  on  her  fingers,  and  in  the  following  night  went  to 
the  grave  to  steal  them — which  he  found  was  not  easy  to  do — 
when  suddenly  she  drew  back  her  arm.  The  robber  ran  away 
frightened,  leaving  his  lantern  at  the  grave.  The  woman  re- 
covered, but  could  not  make  out  where  she  was,  and  cried  for 
help.  No  one  heard  her  ;  so  she  got  out  of  the  grave,  took  the 
lantern,  and  went  to  her  home.  Knocking  at  the  door,  the 
servant  called  to  know  who  it  was.  She  replied  :  'Your  mistress. 
Open  the  door  ;  I  am  cold,  and  freezing  to  death.'  The  master 
was  called,  and  happily  she  was  restored  to  her  home  again, 
where  she  lived  for  several  years  longer." 

"  Pavese,  Italy,  1787. — A  clergyman  was  buried,  and  noises 
were  heard  in  his  grave  afterwards.  Upon  opening  the  grave 
and  the  coffin,  the  man  was  found  alive,  and  violently  trembling 
with  fright." 

"  Pans,  1787. — A  carpenter  was  buried  ;  noises  were  heard 
proceeding  from  his  grave,  and  upon  opening  it  he  was  found 
to  be  breathing.  He  was  taken  to  his  home,  where  he  recovered.'"' 


"  Stadamhof,  1783. — A  young,  healthy  girl,  on  the  way  to  a 
wedding,  had  an  apoplectic  stroke,  as  it  was  thought,  and  fell 
as  if  dead.  The  following  day  she  was  buried.  The  grave- 
digger,  who  was  occupied  near  her  grave  that  night,  heard 
noises  in  it,  and  being  superstitious  ran  home  in  fright.  The 
following  morning  he  returned  to  finish  a  grave  he  was  digging, 
and  heard  the  whining  again  from  the  girl's  grave.  He  called 
for  help,  the  grave  was  opened,  when  they  found  the  girl  turned 
over,  her  face  scratched  and  bloody,  her  fingers  bitten,  and  her 
mouth  full  of  blood.  She  was  dead,  with  evidences  of  most 
dreadful  suffering/' 

"France. — Madame  Lacour  died  after  a  long  sickness,  and 
was  buried  in  a  vault  of  a  church,  with  all  her  jewels  on.  Her 
maid  and  the  sexton  opened  the  coffin  the  following  night  to 
steal  the  jewellery,  when  some  hot  wax  from  the  candle  they 
were  using  fell  on  the  woman's  face  and  woke  her  up.  The 
robbers  fled  in  fright,  and  the  woman  went  back  to  her  home. 
She"  lived  many  years  afterwards,  and  had  a  son  who  became  a 
priest,  who  in  turn — inheriting  his  mothers  nature — underwent 
a  fate  similar  to  her  own." 

"Lyons,  France. — The  wife  of  a  merchant  died.  Two  days 
after  her  seeming  death,  and  just  before  the  time  set  for  her 
burial,  her  husband,  who,  it  seems,  had  some  doubts  as  to  her 
death,  had  her  taken  from  the  coffin,  and  had  a  scarifier  used 
in  cupping  applied  in  twenty-five  places  without  bringing  any 
blood,  but  the  twenty-sixth  application  brought  her  to  conscious- 
ness with  a  scream,  and  she  recovered  completely." 

"Cadillac. — A  woman  had  been  buried  in  the  morning.  In 
the  following  morning  whining  was  heard  in  her  grave.  It  was 
opened,  and  the  woman  was  found  still  alive,  but  she  had 
mutilated  half  of  her  right  arm  and  the  whole  hand.  She  was 
finally  restored." 

The  Spectator,  October  n,  1895,  publishes  particulars 
of  a  case  of  recovery,  after  three  days'  interment,  in 
Ireland.  See  pp.  99,  100  in  this  volume. 


Koppen's  investigations  led  him  to  observe  that 
"  human  life  may  appear  to  come  to  a  stop,  and  no 
one  can  say  it  will  not  go  on  again,  if  time  enough 
is  allowed  for  it  to  do  so.  This  even  the  most  learned 
in  medicine  cannot  explain  away  or  deny ;  and  the 
greatest  precaution  should  be  taken  before  death  is 
declared  to  exist." 



THE  following  extracts  from  French,  English,  and 
American  authorities,  who  have  made  the  subject  of 
premature  burial  one  of  patient  research,  show  how 
the  dead,  or  apparently  dead,  were  treated  in  their 
respective  countries  at  the  time  they  wrote,  and  when 
no  reforms  had  been  instituted.  Buffon,  who  wrote 
more  than  a  century  ago,  said: — "  Life  often  very  nearly 
resembles  death.  Neither  ten,  nor  twenty,  nor  twenty- 
four  hours  are  sufficient  to  distinguish  real  from  appa- 
rent death.  There  are  instances  of  persons  who  have 
been  alive  in  the  grave  at  the  end  of  the  second  and 
even  the  third  clay.  Why,  then,  suffer  to  be  interred 
so  soon  those  whose  lives  we  ardently  wish  to  pro- 
long ?  Most  savages  pay  more  attention  to  deceased 
friends  and  relatives,  and  regard  as  the  first  duty  what 
is  but  a  ceremony  with  us.  Savages  respect  their  dead, 
clothe  them,  speak  to  them,  recite  their  exploits,  extol 
their  virtues ;  while  we,  who  pique  ourselves  on  our 
feelings,  do  not  show  common  humanity;  we  forsake 
and  fly  from  our  dead.  We  have  neither  courage  1-0 
look  upon  or  speak  to  them  ;  we  avoid  every  place 
which  can  recall  their  memory." 


In  his  "  History  of  the  Modes  of  Interment  among 
Different    Nations,"    pp.    191-193,    Mr.    G.    A.    \Valker, 


surgeon,  quotes  the  following  observations,  as  deserving 
consideration,  on  the  subject  of  premature  interment:— 
"  On  many  occasions,  in  all  places,  too  much  precipi- 
tation attends  this  last  office ;  or,  if  not  precipitation, 
a  neglect  of  due  precautions  in  regard  to  the  body  in 
general;  indeed,  the  most  improper  treatment  that  can 
be  imagined  is  adopted,  and  many  a  person  is  made 
to  descend  into  the  grave  before  he  has  sighed  his  last 
breath.  Ancient  and  modern  authors  leave  us  no  doubt 
respecting  the  dangers  or  misconduct  of  such  precipita- 
tion. It  must  appear  astonishing  that  the  attention  of 
mankind  has  been,  after  all,  so  little  aroused  by  an 
idea  the  most  terrible  that  can  be  conceived  on  this 
side  eternity.  According  to  present  usage,  as  soon  as 
the  semblance  of  death  appears,  the  chamber  of  the 
sick  is  deserted  by  friends,  relatives,  and  physicians; 
and  the  apparently  dead,  though  frequently  living, 
body  is  committed  to  the  management  of  an  ignorant 
and  unfeeling  nurse,  whose  care  extends  no  further 
than  laying  the  limbs  straight,  and  securing  her  accus- 
tomed perquisites.  The  bedclothes  are  immediately 
removed,  and  the  body  is  exposed  to  the  air.  This, 
when  cold,  must  extinguish  any  spark  of  life  that  may 
remain,  and  which,  by  a  different  treatment,  might  have 
been  kindled  into  flame  ;  or  it  may  only  continue  to 
repress  it,  and  the  unhappy  person  afterwards  revive, 
amidst  the  horrors  of  the  tomb. 

"  The  difference  between  the  end  of  a  weak  life  and 
the  commencement  of  death  is  so  small,  and  the  un- 
certainty of  the  signs  of  the  latter  is  so  well  established, 
that  we  can  scarcely  suppose  undertakers  capable  of 
distinguishing  an  apparent  from  a  real  death.  Animals 

258  THE    TREATMENT    OF    THE    DEAD. 

which  sleep  in  the  winter  show  no  signs  of  life.  In 
this  case,  circulation  is  only  suspended  ;  but,  were  it 
annihilated,  the  vital  spark  does  not  so  easily  lose  its 
action  as  the  fluids  of  the  body,  and  the  principle  of 
life,  which  long  survives  the  appearance  of  death,  may 
reanimate  a  body  in  which  the  action  of  all  the  organs 
seems  to  be  at  an  end.  But  how  difficult  it  is  to  de- 
termine whether  this  principle  may  not  be  revived ! 
-.  .  .  Coldness,  heaviness  of  the  body,  a  leaden,  livid 
colour,  with  a  yellowness  in  the  visage,  are  all  very 
uncertain  signs.  M.  Zimmermann  observed  them  all 
upon  the  body  of  a  criminal,  who  fainted  through 
dread  of  that  punishment  which  he  had  merited.  He 
was  shaken,  dracfo-ed  about,  and  turned  in  the  same 


manner  as  dead  bodies  are,  without  the  least  signs  of 
resistance,  and  yet,  at  the  end  of  twenty-four  hours,  he 
was  recalled  to  life  by  means  of  the  volatile  alkali." 
Mr.  Walker's  history  was  written  nearly  sixty  years 
ago,  but  the  custom  he  deprecated  still  continues. 


Dr.  Moore  Russell  Fletcher,  in  his  "  Suspended  Ani- 
mation and  Restoration,"  Boston,  1890,  p.  19,  speaking 
of  the  treatment  of  the  dead  in  the  United  States, 
says  : — "  It  is  doubtful  whether  modern  civilization  has 
much  advanced  the  rites  of  burial,  or  the  means  of 
preventing  interment  before  positive  death.  The  prac- 
tice now  is,  as  soon  as  apparent  death  takes  place,  to 
begin  at  once  preparing  the  body  for  burial  ;  the 
relatives  and  physician  desert  the  room,  pack  it  in 
ice  or  open  the  windows,  thus  banishing  any  possible 
chance  of  reviving  or  resuscitating  any  spark  of  vitality 

CUSTOM    IN    THE    UNITED    STATES.  259 

which  may  exist.  No  examination  is  ever  made  by 
the  physician  or  the  friends  to  see  if  there  are  even 
the  faintest  signs  of  life  present.  Under  such  circum- 
stances, and  with  no  attempts  made  at  discovering 
whether  any  signs  of  life  were  still  present  (but  a 
hasty  burial  instead),  it  is  not  strange  that  cases  of 
premature  interment  frequently' occur." 


The  Rev.  Walter  Whiter,  in  his  "  Dissertation  on  the 
Disorder  of  Death,"  1819,  p.  328,  sensibly  observes: — 
"  The  signs  marked  on  the  dying  and  the  dead  are 
fallacious.  The  dying  man  may  be  the  sinking  man, 
exhausted  by  his  malady,  or  perhaps  exhausting  his 
malady,  and  fainting  under  the  conflict.  Exert  all  the 
arts  which  you  possess,  and  which  have  been  found 
not  only  able  to  resuscitate  and  restore  the  dying,  but 
even  the  dead  ;  rouse  him  from  this  perilous  condition 
and  suffer  him  not,  by  your  supineness  and  neglect 
to  pass  into  a  state  of  putrefactive  death."  And  in 
p.  363  : — "  If  the  humane  societies  had  applied  the 
same  methods  in  various  cases  of  natural  death  which 
they  have  adopted  in  the  case  of  drowning,  and  if 
they  had  obtained  a  similar  success  in  the  cultivation 
of  their  art,  the  gloom  of  the  bed  of  death  would  be 
brightened  with  cheering  prospects,  and  would  have 
become  the  bed  of  restoration  and  the  scene  of  hope." 


In  this  connection  we  may  remark  that  no  profession 
is  more  overcrowded  at  the  present  time  than  that  of 
medicine,  particularly  in  the  United  Kingdom,  the 

260  THE    TREATMENT    OF    THE    DEAD. 

English  Colonies,  and  the  United  States.  Hundreds 
of  young  men  graduate  from  medical  colleges  every 
year,  vainly  seeking  openings  for  a  practice ;  and 
some,  for  the  purpose  of  gaining  a  livelihood,  resort  to 
expedients  which  the  Lancet  denounces  as  undignified, 
unprofessional,  and  disgraceful.  Then,  again,  the  num- 
ber of  nurses  and  of  those  qualifying  for  this  honour- 
able vocation  is  already  in  excess  of  the  demand,  and 
nursing  institutions,  under  the  keen  competition  to 
which  they  are  subjected,  are  reducing  their  charges. 
Now,  the  care  and  treatment  of  the  supposed  dead  is 
an  honourable  vocation,  offering  a  wide  field  for  the 
instructed  physician  and  the  tender  and  sympathetic 
nurse,  and  if  the  appliances  for  resuscitation  were 
always  at  hand,  as  they  should  be,  in  every  hospital, 
town  hall,  mortuary,  police  station,  and  in  all  large 
hotels  and  churches,  many  lives,  now  subjected  to  the 
risks  of  premature  burial,  would  be  saved.  While  in 
London  there  are  two  or  more  houses  or  retreats  for 
the  dying,  there  is  no  place  for  the  apparently  dead 
but  a  shunned  and  neglected  coffin.  The  time  is  not 
far  distant  when  the  present  mode  of  treating  the 
dead  and  the  apparently  dead — a  practice  born  of 
superstition  and  fear,  by  which  many  are  consigned 
to  premature  graves — will  be  catalogued  amongst  the 
barbarisms  of  the  nineteenth  century. 




THOSE  interested  in  the  movement,  if  we  are  right  in 
designating  the  widespread  feeling  of  discontent  by  this 
name,  are  occasionally  asked  if  the  cases  of  premature 
burial  are  numerous,  and  what  estimates,  if  any,  have 
been  made  of  them.  We  have  no  means  of  answering 
these  queries.  We  do  not  even  know  the  percentage 
of  people  who  are  subject  to  trance,  catalepsy,  shocks, 
stroke  of  lightning,  syncope,  exhausting  lethargy,  ex- 
cessive opium-eating,  or  other  diseases  and  conditions 
which  produce  the  various  death-counterfeits.  Personal 
inquiries  over  a  considerable  portion  of  Europe,  America, 
and  the  East  prove  that  such  cases  are  by  no  means  of 
infrequent  occurrence,  and  this  is  the  deliberate  conclu- 
sion of  nearly  all  the  authorities  cited  in  this  volume. 

Dr.  Chambers  wrote  in  1787  —  "Every  age  and 
country  affords  instances  of  surprising  recoveries,  after 
lying  long  for  dead.  From  the  number  of  those 
preserved  by  lucky  accidents,  we  may  conclude  a  far 
greater  number  might  have  been  preserved  by  timely 
pains  and  skill." — Cited  in  "  Mort  Apparente  et  Mort 
Reelle,"  p.  17. 

In  his  introduction  to  the  work  above  cited,  "In- 
formation Relative  to  Persons  who  have  been  Buried 
Alive,"  by  Heinrich  Friedrich  Koppen,  Halle,  1799,  the 


author  says  : — "  General  Staff  Medical  Officer,  D.  O. 
in  D.,  states  that,  in  his  opinion,  one-third  of  mankind 
are  buried  alive."  This  estimate  is  very  obviously 
exaggerated,  although  many  trustworthy  experiences 
prove  that  a  certain  number  of  those  who  die  have 
returned  to  consciousness  in  their  graves.  A  great 
many  are  buried  alive  from  ignorance  of  their  relatives, 
who  mistake  coldness  of  the  body,  stoppage  of  the 
pulse  and  breathing,  the  colour  of  death,  spots  of 
discolouration,  a  certain  odour,  and  stiffness  of  the 
limbs — which  are  only  deceptive  signs,  and  not  the 
signs  of  real  death. 


The  very  respectable  Dr.  Hufeland  says  : — "  One 
cannot  be  too  careful  in  deciding  as  to  life  or  death, 
therefore  I  always  advise  a  delay  of  the  funeral  as 
long  as  possible,  so  as  to  make  all  certain  as  to  death. 
Xo  wonder  those  who  are  buried  alive,  and  who 
undergo  indescribable  torture,  condemn  those  who 
have  been  dearest  to  them  in  life.  They  will  have  to 
undergo  slow  suffocation,  in  furious  despair,  while 
scratching  their  flesh  to  pieces,  biting  their  tongues, 
and  smashing  their  heads  against  the  narrow  houses 
that  confine  them,  and  calling  to  their  best  friends, 
and  cursing  them  as  murderers.  The  dead  should 
not  be  buried  before  the  fourth  day  ;  we  even  have 
examples  that  prove  that.  Eight  days  or  a  fortnight 
is  too  soon — as  there  have  been  revivals  as  late  as 
that.  I  say  everyone  should  respect  those  who  only 
seem  to  be  dead.  They  should  be  treated  gently,  and 
kept  in  a  warm  bed  for  thirty-six  hours." 


Mr.  John  Snart,  in  his  "Thesaurus,"  pp.  27,  28, 
London,  1817,  says: — "The  number  of  dreadful  catas- 
trophes, arising  from  premature  interment, 
that  have  been  discovered  only,  or  have  transpired  to 
man,  above  ground,  both  in  ancient  and  modern  times, 
conveys  to  every  reflecting  mind  the  fearful  thought 
that  they  are  but  a  sample  (per  synecdochen)  out  of 
such  an  incalculable  host,  perhaps  one  in  a  thousand." 


Professor  Froriep,  quoted  in  Kempner's  volume, 
says  that — "  In  1829,  arrangements  were  made  at  the 
cemetery,  New  York,  so  as  to  bury  the  corpses  in 
such  manner  as  not  to  prevent  them  communicating 
with  the  outside  world,  in  case  any  should  have 
awakened  to  life ;  and  among  twelve  hundred  persons 
buried  six  came  to  life  again."  In  Holland,  the  same 
author  states,  of  a  thousand  cases  investigated,  five 
came  to  life  before  burial,  or  at  the  grave.  The  Rev. 
J.  G.  Ouseley,  in  his  pamphlet  on  "  Earth  to  Earth 
Burial,"  London,  1895,  estimates  "that  two  thousand 
seven  hundred  persons  at  least,  in  England  and  Wales, 
are  yearly  consigned  to  a  living  death,  the  most 
horrible  conceivable." 

The  Rev.  Walter  Whiter,  in  the  "  Disorder  of  Death," 
1819,  p.  362,  calls  attention  to  one  of  the  reports  (of 
Humane  Societies),  where  the  following  passage  occurs: 
"  Monsieur  Thieurey,  Doctor  Regent  of  the  Faculty 
of  Paris,  is  of  opinion  that  one-third,  or  perhaps  half, 
of  those  who  die  in  their  beds  are  not  actually  dead 
when  they  are  buried.  He  does  not  mean  to  say  that 
so  great  a  number  would  be  restored  to  life.  In  the 


intermediate  state,  which  reaches  from  the  instant  of 
apparent  death  to  that  of  total  extinction  of  life,  the 
body  is  not  insensible  to  the  treatment  it  receives, 
though  unable  to  give  any  signs  of  sensibility." 

Maximilian  Misson,  in  his  "  Voyage  Through  Italy," 
vol.  i.,  letter  5,  tells  us  "that  the  number  of  persons 
who  have  been  interred  as  dead  when  they  were 
really  alive  is  very  great,  in  comparison  with  those 
who  have  been,  happily,  rescued  from  their  graves." 
He  then  proceeds  to  substantiate  his  statement  by 
the  recital  of  cases. 

Dr.  Leonce  Lenormand,  in  his  able  treatise,  "  Des 
Inhumations  Precipitees,"  has  given  his  deliberate 
opinion  that  a  thousandth  part  of  the  human  race 
have  been,  and  are,  for  want  of  knowledge,  annually 
buried  alive. 

M.  Le  Guern,  in  his  "  Danger  des  Inhumations 
Precipitees,"  which  has  passed  through  several  editions, 
declares  that  he  has  personally  met  with  forty-six 
cases  of  premature  burial  in  twelve  years.  He  de- 
voted thirty  years  to  the  study  of  the  facts,  and 
collected  a  list  of  two  thousand  three  hundred  and 
thirteen  cases  from  various  sources.  He  estimates  the 
number  of  premature  burials  in  France  at  two  per 

On  February  27,  1866,  the  petition  of  M.  Cornot 
was  presented  to  the  French  Senate  by  M.  de  la 
Gueronniere,  stating  that  a  comparatively  large  number 
of  persons  are  annually  buried  alive.  This  statement 
he  supported  by  statistics.  The  author  has  tried  to 
procure  a  copy  of  this  petition,  but  these  documents 
are  not  published  by  the  State  department. 

AN    INSTANCE    OF    TWO    PER    CENT.  265 


The  following  appears  in  the  Lancet  June   14,  1884, 
p.   1104:— 

•  "Sir, — That  this  is  an  incident  that  does  happen, 
and  frequently  has  happened,  has  for  some  years  past 
been  my  firm  conviction  ;  and  during  epidemics, 
particularly  in  the  East,  its  possible  contingency  has 
frequently  caused  me  much  anxiety  ;  and  when  the 
burial  has,  for  sanitary  reasons,  had  to  be  very 
hurried,  I  always  made  it  a  rule  to  withhold  my 
certificate,  unless  I  had  personally  inspected  the  body 
and  assured  myself  of  the  fact  of  death. 

"The  reason  and  necessity  for  extreme  caution  in 
such  matters  were  impressed  vividly  upon  me  some 
years  ago,  when  visiting  the  crypt  of  the  cathedral  at 
Bordeaux,  where  two  bodies  were  shown,  to  whom,  I 
think  it  obvious,  this  most  terrible  of  all  occurrences 
must  have  happened ;  and  I  am  unable  to  attribute 
the  position  in  which  they  were  found  in  their  coffins, 
and  the  look  of  horror  which  their  faces  still  displayed, 
to  any  action  of  rigor  mortis  or  any  other  post-mortem 
change,  but  simply  and  solely  to  their  having  awakened 
to  a  full  appreciation  of  their  most  awful  position.  In 
the  case  of  one  of  these  bodies,  which  was  found 
lying  on  its  side,  the  legs  were  drawn  up  nearly  to  a 
level  with  the  abdomen,  and  the  arms  were  in  such  a 
position  as  to  convey  the  impression  that  both  they 
and  the  legs  had  been  used  in  a  desperate,  but  futile, 
attempt  to  push  out  the  side  of  the  coffin ;  whilst 
the  look  of  horror  remaining  on  the  face  was  simply 
indescribable.  In  the  other  case,  the  body  was  found 


lying  on  its  face,  the  arms  extended  above  the  head, 
as  if  attempting  to  push  out  the  top  of  the  coffin.  In 
the  year  1870  these  two  bodies  were  still  on  view; 
and  the  attendants  used  to  dwell  at  some  length  upon 
the  horrors  of  being  interred  alive.  It  appears  that 
some  years  prior  to  1870,  in  making  excavations  in  a 
churchyard  in  the  immediate  vicinity  of  the  cathedral, 
the  workmen  came  upon  a  belt  of  ground  that 
apparently  was  impregnated  with  some  antiseptic 
material,  as  all  the  bodies  within  this  belt,  to  the 
number  of  about  two  hundred,  were  found  to  be 
almost  as  perfect  as  when  they  were  buried  ;  of  these 
a  selection  appears  to  have  been  made ;  and  at  the 
time  I  mention  about  thirty  or  forty  were  exhibited, 
propped  up  on  iron  frames,  in  the  crypt  of  the 
cathedral.  The  impression  left  on  my  mind  at 
the  time  was,  that  if  out  of  two  hundred  bodies  so 
discovered  there  could  be  two  in  which,  to  say  the 
least,  there  is  a  strong  probability  of  live  interment, 
this  awful  possibility  was  a  thing  that  should  receive 
more  attention  than  is  generally  devoted  to  it — I  am, 
sir,  your  obedient  servant, 

"H.  S. 
"  Bayswater,  June   10,   1884." 


Protests  against  the  present  state  of  the  law  in  France 
are  very  frequent.  M.  Gaubert  in  "  Les  ChambreS 
Mortuaires  d'Attente,"  page  80,  says  :  "  During  the 
monarchy  of  July  petitions  have  not  ceased  to  come  in 
from  all  parts  of  France  to  the  Chamber  of  Deputies." 
For  a  great  number  of  years,  said  the  Deputy  Varin, 


in  the  sitting  of  April  10,  1847,  every  year  petitions 
having  the  same  object  (the  prevention  of  premature 
burial)  are  presented  to  the  Chambers  and  referred  to 
the  Ministry.  What  has  been  done,  however?  Nothing! 
Again  M.  Gaubert,  on  p.  88,  referring  to  resolutions 
of  the  General  Councils  of  the  Departments,  observes  : 
'"  That  under  the  movement  of  protest,  which  we  are 
examining  and  find  particularly  serious,  is  shown  the 
widespread  character  which  it  assumes.  It  is,  indeed, 
from  all  parts  of  France,  and  under  every  form,  that 
the  sad  complaints  of  the  public  (for  the  prevention 
of  premature  burial)  arrive  at  the  office  of  the  Minister 
of  the  Interior.  Those  protests  adopted  by  the  General 
Councils  (of  Departments)  were  not  the  less  numerous 
nor  the  less  conspicuous  in  important  places.  Many 
of  those  who  take  the  trouble  to  petition  or  draw  up 
resolutions  have  been  prompted  to  action  by  melan- 
choly experience  of  such  catastrophes  in  their  own 

M.  Gaubert,  in  "  Les  Chambres  Mortuaires  d'Attente" 
{Paris,  1895),  PP-  193-195>  Sa7s  that  in  France  there  are 
in  round  numbers  thirty-six  thousand  Communes,  and 
it  is  beyond  doubt  that  in  every  one  of  these  will  be 
found  cases  of  premature  burial.  Communes  with  a 
population  of  eight  hundred  have  even  several.  Dr. 
Pineau  has  recorded  twelve  in  the  single  Commune  of 
Fontenay-le-Comte  in  Poitou.  In  the  large  towns, 
especially  in  those  which  have  great  hospitals,  the  pro- 
portion is  more  considerable.  In  Paris,  Dr.  Rousseau, 
verificateur  of  the  dead,  in  1853  wrote:  "  Le  medecin 
n'est  jamais  appele  que  pour  constater  la  mort 
-apparente."  M.  Gaubert  declares  that  he  would  not 


be  far  from  the  truth  in  estimating  the  number  •  of 
victims  to  apparent  death  at  eight  thousand  a  yearr. 
and  asks  if  France  be  so  rich  in  population  as  to  be 
able  to  pay  such  an  enormous  tribute.  Dr.  Josaty 
laureat  de  1'Institut,  declares  that  a  considerable 
number  of  people  refuse  to  visit  France  through  fear 
that  they  might  be  overtaken  by  apparent  death  and 
precipitately  buried  alive. 


The  Undertakers'  Journal,  July  22,  1889,  the  editor 
of  which  has  exceptional  opportunities  of  knowing  the 
true  facts,  observes  :  "  It  has  been  proved  beyond  all 
contradiction  that  there  are  more  burials  alive  than  is 
generally  supposed.  Stories  of  these  cases  are  numer- 
ous. Five  cases  are  reported  on  p.  85  of  this  same 
issue,  one  the  wife  of  a  well-known  tradesman  at  St. 
Leonards,  medically  pronounced  dead,  but  who  revived 
before  it  was  too  late.  Many  undertakers  could 
describe  similar  experiences." 

Dr.  Roger  S.  Chew,  of  Calcutta,  in  reply  to  the 
author's  inquiries  while  in  India  in  the  early  part  of 
the  year  1896,  says:  "There  are  hundreds  of  instances 
on  record  where  from  some  cause,  as  syncope,  shock, 
chloroform,  hysteria,  or  other  condition  not  clearly 
understood,  the  powers  of  life  assumed  a  static  con- 
dition in  which  oxidation  was  completely  arrested, 
carbonification  was  held  in  abeyance,  and  nitrification 
maintained  at  positive  rest,  with  the  consequence  that 
the  vital  functions  have  passed  into  a  condition  of 
hibernation  or  apparent  death  so  closely  simulating 
real  or  absolute  death  as  to  render  differential  diagnosis 

ENGLAND,    INDIA,    AND    THE    CONTINENT.        269 

an.  almost  impossibility,  and  to  lead  to  the  interment  or 
cremation  while  yet  alive  of  a  body  apparently  dead." 

Dr.  Franz  Hartmann,  of  Hallein,  Austria,  whose 
book,  "  Buried  Alive,"  is  now  being  translated  into 
French,  has  collected  seven  hundred  cases  of  premature 
burial  and  narrow  escapes,  several  of  which  have  oc- 
curred in  his  own  neighbourhood,  and  is  of  opinion 
that  the  actual  danger  to  every  member  of  the  human 
family  is  of  serious  proportions,  and  that  the  subject 
•should  not  be  trifled  with.  He  is  a  strong  advocate 
for  cremation  as  offering  the  easiest  practical  method 
•of  prevention. 

It  will  have  been  noticed  that  whenever  the  subject 
of  premature  burial  has  been  introduced  in  an  influential 
journal  published  in  England,  the  United  States,  or 
the  Continent,  one  contribution  follows  another  in 
quick  succession  by  persons  furnishing  particulars  of 
cases  of  trance,  catalepsy,  and  of  narrow  escapes  from 
living  burial.  The  Paris  Figaro  opened  its  columns 
some  years  ago  for  this  subject,  and  in  fifteen  days 
received  four  hundred  letters  from  all  parts  of  France. 
When  we  consider  that  nearly  all  the  reported  cases 
of  resuscitation  have  come  about  spontaneously  and 
independently  of  human  intervention,  it  becomes 
evident,  owing  to  our  ignorance  and  apathy,  that 
cases  of  premature  burial  are  far  from  infrequent,  and 
our  churchyards  and  cemeteries,  like  those  examined 
by  Dr.  Thouret  in  Paris,  are  probably  the  silent 
witnesses  of  unnumbered  unspeakable  silent  tragedies. 
Immediate  legislation  is  called  for  to  remedy  a  national 
evil,  and  to  remove  the  feeling  of  disquietude  which 
-extensively  prevails. 



As  an  illustration  of  hasty  burial  in  Ireland,  the 
following  report  of  a  meeting  of  the  Roscrea  Guardians 
is  taken  from  the  Kings  County  Chronicle,  Parsons- 
town,  Ireland,  August  27,  1896. 

"  Thursday—  Present  :  T.  Jackson,  D.V.C.,  in  the 
chair;  L.  S.  Maher,  J.  P.  ;  M.  Bergin,  J.  P.  ;  W.  J. 
Menton,  W.  Jackson,  P.  Roe. 

"  Mr.  Roe  —  You  made  short  work  of  Jack  Ryan  at 
the  chapel  of  Knock.  He  was  alive  and  speaking  at 
three  o'clock,  and  buried  at  six  the  same  day.  The 
Master  stated  that,  it  being  supposed  the  man  died  from 
an  infectious  disease,  no  person  would  assist  in  coffining 
him  till  a  message  came  asking  that  he  (the  Master) 
would  send  out  some  of  the  male  inmates,  and  he  sent 
two  and  had  him  coffined  and  interred.  Mr.  Roe  —  The 
man  was  not  cold  when  he  was  buried.  Master  —  The 
nun  tells  me  the  man  had  an  ounce  of  tobacco  clasped 
tightly  in  his  hands.  Chairman  —  What  disease  had  he  ? 
Clerk  —  Pneumonia  was  certified  by  the  doctor.  The 
people  believed  that  he  had  died  from  an  infectious 
disease,  and  insisted  he  should  be  buried  immediately, 
Mr.  Roe  —  It  was  certainly  short  work  —  a  man  dying  at 
three  o'clock  and  buried  at  six.  Master  —  This  man  was 
married  to  a  woman  who  was  a  nurse  in  the  old 
Donoughmore  workhouse,  and  they  lived  at  Drumar,. 

reference  to  the  burial  customs  in  Ireland,  the  King's  County 
Chronicle,  Parsonstown,  September  17,  1896,  says  :—  "  Young  children  are 
buried  the  day  after  death,  but  adults  are  waked  for  two,  and  sometimes 
three,  nights. 


THE  work  of  disintegration  commences  directly  death 
of  the  body  takes  place,  and,  according  to  most  impor- 
tant researches  by  M.  Megnin  in  "  La  Faune  des 
Cadavres,"  is  the  result  of  the  operations  of  successive 
colonies  of  insects — "the  labourers  of  death,"  some 
eight  different  species  in  all,  which  pursue  their  offices 
according  to  the  particular  stage  of  decomposition  for 
which  their  services  are  required. 

This  valuable  work  of  disintegration  is  arrested  by 
the  process  of  embalming,  which  consists  in  the  injec- 
tion of  various  toxic  substances;  and  were  this  process 
universal  it  would  mean  the  rather  inadvisable  preserva- 
tion of  immense  numbers  of  human  bodies,  and,  at  the 
same  time,  it  would  occasionally  lead  to  the  defeat  of 
justice  where  death  by  poisoning  had  occurred. 

There  are  those,  however,  who  claim  advantages  for 
the  processes  of  embalming  and  dissection. 


An  intelligent  and  observing  correspondent  writes 
to  the  author  that  "  under  the  prevailing  custom  of 
embalming  in  vogue  in  the  United  States,  it  is  almost 
impossible  to  have  a  living  burial,  as  the  injection  of 
the  fluids  used  in  the  operation  would  prevent  revival 
and  make  death  certain.  Of  course,  the  class  denomi- 
nated 'poor  folks,'  who  cannot  afford  this  security, 


have  to  take  their  chances  with  the  mysteries  of  trance 
and  other  forms  of  apparent  death,  as  well  as  with 
ignorance,  indifference,  and  unseemly  haste,  that  seem 
to  encompass  a  man  at  a  time  when  he  is  in  need  of 
the  most  considerate  care." 

Embalming  is  no  doubt  preferable,  as  was  thought 
by  the  late  Lady  Burton,  to  the  risks,  prevailing  in 
almost  all  countries,  of  burial  before  careful  medical 
examination,  for  the  reason  that  it  is  better  to  be  killed 
outright  by  the  embalmer's  poisonous  injections,  or  even 
to  come  to  life  under  the  scalpel  of  the  anatomist,  than 
to  recover  underground.  A  leading  New  York  investi- 
gator has  openly  declared  his  belief  that  a  considerable 
number  of  human  beings  (supposed  by  their  relatives  to 
be  dead,  but  who  are  really  only  in  a  state  of  death- 
trance)  are  annually  killed  in  America  by  the  embalming 

The  late  Miss  Frances  Power  Cobbe  was  so  impressed 
by  the  fear  of  being  buried  alive,  for  reasons  which 
are  recited  on  page  126,  that  she  preferred  being  killed 
outright  by  the  surgeon's  knife,  rather  than  run  the  risk 
she  so  much  dreaded.  Consequently,  her  will  contained 
the  following  solemn  injunction  to  her  medical  adviser, 
which  was  duly  carried  out  by  the  editor  of  this  work  : 
"  To  perform  on  my  body  the  operation  of  completely 
and  thoroughly  severing  the  arteries  of  the  neck  and 
windpipe,  nearly  severing  the  head  altogether,  so  as 
to  make  any  revival  in  the  grave  absolutely  impossible. 
If  this  operation  be  not  performed,  and  its  completion 
witnessed  by  one  or  other  of  my  executors,  and  testified 
by  the  same,  I  pronounce  all  bequests  in  this  will  to 
be  null  and  void." 



Dr.  P.  J.  Gibbons,  M.A.,  says : — "  In  my  mind 
there  is  no  doubt  that  bodies  in  which  life  is  not 
extinct  are  embalmed." 

The  Select  Committee  of  the  House  of  Commons 
appointed  in  1893  to  enquire  into  the  subject  of 
Death-Certification,  suggest  in  their  report  that  in 
all  cases  where  it  is  desired  to  embalm  a  dead  body 
an  authorisation  should  be  obtained  from  the  Home 
Secretary.  This  is  probably  intended  to  prevent 
concealing  cases  of  death  by  poisoning.  The  Select 
Committee  might  very  well  have  extended  its  recom- 
mendations to  the  need  of  verifying  the  death  before 
the  embalmer  was  allowed  to  exercise  his  art  on  the 
subject.  Legislation  in  the  United  States,  where 
embalming  is  extensively  practised  among  well-to-do 
people,  is  a  matter  of  urgent  necessity.  The  author 
is  aware  of  only  one  town  where  the  city  ordinance 
enforces  such  verification  before  permitting  burial. 

In  the  second  edition  of  Dr.  Curry's  "  Observations 
on  Apparent  Death,"  1815,  p.  105,  the  case  is  cited  of 
William,  Earl  of  Pembroke,  who  died  April  10,  1630. 
When  the  body  was  opened  in  order  to  be  embalmed 
he  was  observed,  immediately  after  the  incision  was 
made,  to  lift  up  his  hand. 

F.  Kempner,  in  "  Denkschrift,"  p.  6,  says  : — 

"  Owing  to  some  great  mental  excitement,  the 
Cardinal  Spinosa  fell  into  a  state  of  apparent  death. 
He  was  declared  to  be  dead  by  his  physicians,  and 
they  proceeded  to  open  his  chest  for  the  purpose  of 
embalming  his  body.  When  the  lungs  were  laid 


open,  the  heart  began  to  beat  again ;  the  Cardinal 
returned  to  consciousness,  and  was  just  able  to  grasp- 
the  knife  of  the  surgeon,  when  he  fell  back  and  died 
in  reality."1 

The  Journal  de  Rouen,  Aug.  5,  1837,  relates  the 
following  : — 

"  Cardinal  Somaglia  was  seized  with  a  severe  ill- 
ness, from  extreme  grief;  he  fell  into  a  state  of 
syncope,  which  lasted  so  long  that  the  persons  around 
him  thought  him  dead.  Preparations  were  instantly 
made  to  embalm  his  body,  before  the  putrefactive 
process  should  commence,  in  order  that  he  might  be 
placed  in  a  leaden  coffin,  in  the  family  vault.  The 
operator  had  scarcely  penetrated  into  his  chest,  when: 
the  heart  was  seen  to  beat.  The  unfortunate  patient, 
who  was  returning  to  his  senses  at  that  moment,  had 
still  sufficient  strength  to  push  away  the  knife  of  the 
surgeon,  but  too  late,  for  the  lung  had  been  mortally 
wounded,  and  the  patient  died  in  a  most  lamentable 

Dr.  Hartmann  in  "  Premature  Burial,"  p.  80,  says  : — 

"  The  celebrated  actress  Mdlle.  Rachel  died  at  Paris, 
on  4th  January,  1858.  After  the  process  of  embalm- 
ing her  body  had  already  begun,  she  awoke  from  her 
trance,  but  died  ten  hours  afterwards  owing  to  the 
injuries  that  had  been  inflicted  upon  her." 

The  Celestial  City,  New  York,  June  15,  1889,  records 
the  thrilling  experience  of  Mrs.  Eleanor  Fletcher 
Bishop,  the  mother  of  the  celebrated  mind-reader. 

"  Anent  the  unseemly  haste  exercised  by  the  doctors 

1  Quoted  by  Dr.   Franz  Hartmann  in  "Premature  Burial." 


who  made  the  autopsy  on  her  son,  the  old  lady  stated 
what  terrible  perils  she  at  one  time  barely  escaped. 
'  I  am  subject  to  the  same  cataleptic  trances,  in  which 
my  boy  often  fell,'  said  Mrs.  Bishop.  'One  can  see 
and  hear  everything,  but  speech  and  movement  are 
paralyzed.  It  is  horrible.  For  six  days,  some  years 
ago,  I  was  in  a  trance,  and  saw  arrangements  being 
made  for  my  funeral.  Only  my  brother's  determined 
resistance  prevented  them  from  embalming  me,  and  I 
lay  there  and  heard  it  all.  On  the  seventh  day  I  came 
to  myself,  but  the  agony  I  endured  left  its  mark  for 
ever.'  " 


Mr.  M.  Cooper,  surgeon,  in  his  admirable  little  volume 
"  The  Uncertainty  of  the  Signs  of  Death,"  London, 
1746,  p.  196,  observes  that  "those  who  are  dissected 
run  no  risk  of  being  interred  alive.  The  operation  is  an 
infallible  means  to  secure  them  from  so  terrible  a  fate. 
This  is  one  advantage  which  persons  dissected  have 
over  those  who  are,  without  any  further  ceremony,  shut 
up  in  their  coffins." 

The  following  from  Ogston's  "Medical  Jurisprudence," 
p.  370,  is  a  case  in  point  (quoted  by  the  Lancef}; — "In. 
October,  1840,  a  servant  girl,  who  had  retired  to  bed 
apparently  in  perfect  health,  was  found  the  following- 
morning,  as  it  appeared,  dead.  A  surgeon  who  was 
called  pronounced  her  to  have  been  dead  for  some 
hours.  A  coroner's  inquest  was  summoned  for  four 
o'clock,  and  the  reporter  and  the  surgeon  who  had  been 
called  in  to  the  girl  were  ordered  to  inspect  the  body 
previous  to  its  sitting.  On  proceeding  to  the  house  for 
this  purpose  at  two  o'clock,  the  inspectors  found  the  girl 


lying  in  bed  in  an  easy  posture,  her  face  pallid,  but 
placid  and  composed,  as  if  she  were  in  a  deep  sleep, 
while  the  heat  of  the  body  had  not  diminished.  A  vein 
•was  opened  by  them,  and  various  stimuli  applied,  but 
•without  affording  any  sign  of  resuscitation.  After  two 
hours  of  hesitation  and  delay,  a  message  being  brought 
that  the  jury  were  waiting  for  their  evidence,  they  were 
forced  to  proceed  to  the  inspection.  In  moving  the 
body  for  this  purpose,  the  warmth  and  pliancy  of  the 
limbs  were  such  as  to  give  the  examiners  the  idea  that 
they  had  to  deal  with  a  living  subject !  The  internal 
cavities,  as  they  proceeded,  were  found  so  warm  that  a 
very  copious  steam  issued  from  them  on  exposure.  All 
the  viscera  were  in  a  healthy  state,  and  nothing  was 
detected  which  could  throw  the  smallest  light  on  the 
cause  of  this  person's  death."  Tidy  ("Legal  Medicine") 
part  i.,  p.  140,  remarks  thereon — "  A  mistake  had  no 
doubt  been  made  in  this  case,  as  its  warmth  was  not 
caused  by  decomposition." 

In  the  "  Cyclopaedia  of  Practical  Medicine,"  edited  by 
Sir  John  Forbes,  M.D.,  and  others,  1847,  vol.  i., 
pp.  548-9,  we  find  the  following: — "Nothing  is  more 
certain  than  death  ;  nothing  is  more  uncertain  at  times 
than  its  reality  ;  and  numerous  instances  are  recorded 
of  persons  prematurely  buried,  or  actually  at  the  verge 
of  the  grave,  before  it  was  discovered  that  life  still 
remained  ;  and  even  of  some  who  were  resuscitated  by 
the  knife  of  the  anatomist.  .  .  .  Bruhier,  a  cele- 
brated French  physician,  who  wrote  on  the  uncertainties 
of  the  signs  of  death  in  1742,  relates  an  instance  of  a 
young  woman  upon  whose  supposed  corpse  an  anato- 
mical examination  was  about  to  be  made  when  the  first 


stroke  of  the  scalpel  revealed  the  truth  ;  she  recovered,, 
and  lived  many  years  afterwards.  The  case  related  by 
Philippe  Pue  is  somewhat  similar.  He  proceeded  to< 
perform  the  Caesarean  section  upon  a  woman  who  had 
to  all  appearance  died  undelivered,  when  the  first  incision 
betrayed  the  awful  fallacy  under  which  he  acted.  .  .  . 
'There  is  scarcely  a  dissecting-room  that  has  not  some 
traditional  story  handed  down  of  subjects  restored  to 
life  after  being  deposited  within  its  walls.  Many  of 
these  are  mere  inventions  to  catch  the  ever  greedy  ear 
of  curiosity  ;  but  some  of  them  are,  we  fear,  too  well 
founded  to  admit  of  much  doubt.  To  this  class  belongs 
the  circumstance  related  by  Louis,  the  celebrated  French 
writer  on  medical  jurisprudence.  A  patient  who  was 
supposed  to  have  died  in  the  Hospital  Salpetiere  was 
removed  to  his  dissecting-room.  Next  morning  Louis 
was  informed  that  moans  had  been  heard  in  the  theatre; 
and  on  proceeding  thither  he  found  to  his  horror  that 
the  supposed  corpse  had  revived  during  the  night,  and 
had  actually  died  in  the  struggle  to  disengage  herself 
from  the  winding  sheet  in  which  she  was  enveloped. 
This  was  evident  from  the  distorted  attitude  in  which 
the  body  was  found.  Allowing  for  much  of  the  fiction, 
with  which  such  a  subject  must  ever  be  mixed,  there  is 
still  sufficient  evidence  to  warrant  a  diligent  examination 
of  the  means  of  discriminating  between  real  and  apparent 
death;  indeed,  the  horror  with  which  we  contemplate  a 
mistake  of  the  living  for  the  dead  should  excite  us  to 
the  pursuit  of  knowledge  by  which  an  event  so  repug- 
nant to  our  feelings  may  be  avoided.  ...  If  life 
depends  upon  the  presence  of  a  force  or  power  con- 
tinually opposed  to  the  action  of  physical  and  chemical. 


laws,  real  death  will  be  the  loss  of  this  force,  and  the 
abandonment  of  organised  bodies  to  these  agents ; 
while  apparent  death  will  be  only  the  suspension  of 
the  exercise  of  life,  caused  by  some  derangement  of 
the  functions  which  serve  as  instruments  of  vital  action. 
This  suspension  must  have  been  lost  for  a  considerable 
time,  if  we  may  judge  by  the  cases  collected  by 
credible  authors,  to  some  of  which  we  have  alluded, 
and  by  the  numerous  instances  of  drowned  persons 
restored  to  life  after  long  submersion.  From  this 
definition  of  life  and  death,  it  would  follow  that 
putrefaction  is  the  only  evidence  of  real  death." 


The  historical  instance  of  Vesalius  has  been  ques- 
tioned, but  the  facts  appear  to  be  unrefuted. 

"  Andreas  Vesalius,  successively  first  physician  to 
Charles  the  Fifth  and  his  son  Philip  the  Second  of 
Spain,  being  persuaded  that  a  certain  Spanish  gentle- 
man, whom  he  had  under  management,  was  dead,  asked 
liberty  of  his  friends  to  lay  open  his  body.  His  request 
being  granted,  he  no  sooner  plunged  his  dissecting- 
knife  in  the  body  than  he  observed  signs  of  life  in  it, 
since,  upon  opening  the  breast,  he  saw  the  heart  palpi- 
tating. The  friends  of  the  deceased,  horrified  by  the 
accident,  pursued  Vesalius  as  a  murderer ;  and  the 
judges  inclined  that  he  should  suffer  as  such.  By  the 
entreaties  of  the  King  of  Spain,  he  was  rescued  from  the 
threatening  danger,  on  condition  that  he  would  expiate 
his  crime  by  undertaking  a  voyage  to  the  Holy  Land." 

The  account  of  an  accident  that  befell  another 
anatomist  is  taken  from  Terilli. 


"  A  lady  of  distinction  in  Spain,  being  seized  with  an 
hysteric  suffocation  so  violent  that  she  was  thought 
irretrievably  dead,  her  friends  employed  a  celebrated 
anatomist  to  lay  open  her  body  to  discover  the  cause  of 
her  death.  Upon  the  second  stroke  of  the  knife  she 
was  roused  from  her  disorder,  and  exhibited  evident 
signs  of  life  by  her  lamentable  shrieks  extorted  by  the 
fatal  instrument.  This  melancholy  spectacle  struck  the 
bystanders  with  so  much  consternation  and  horror  that 
the  anatomist,  now  no  less  condemned  and  abhorred 
than  before  applauded  and  extolled,  was  forthwith 
obliged  to  quit  not  only  the  town  but  also  the  province 
in  which  the  guiltless  tragedy  was  acted.  But  though 
he  quitted  the  now  disagreeable  scene  of  the  accident, 
a  groundless  remorse  preyed  upon  his  soul,  till  at  last 
a  fatal  melancholy  put  an  end  to  his  life." 

Le  Guern,  in  "  Du  Danger  des  Inhumations  Preci- 
pitees,"  chap,  iv.,  p.  24,  relates  that  "  The  Abbe*  Prevost 
was  found  in  the  forest  of  Chantilly  perfectly  insensible. 
They  thought  him  dead.  A  surgeon  proceeded  to 
make  a  post-mortem;  but  hardly  had  he  put  the  scalpel 
in  the  body  of  the  unfortunate  victim  before  the  sup- 
posed corpse  uttered  a  cry,  and  the  surgeon  realised  the 
mistake  he  had  made.  Prevost  only  became  conscious 
to  feel  aware  of  the  horror  of  the  death  by  which  he 

Dr.  Franz  Hartmann,  in  his  "  Premature  Burial,"  p.  80, 
has  the  following  : — 

"In  May,  1864,  a  man  died  very  suddenly  at  an 
hospital  in  the  State  of  New  York,  and  as  the  doctors 
could  not  explain  the  cause  of  the  death  they  resolved 
upon  a  post-mortem  examination,  but  when  they  made 


the  first  cut  with  the  knife,  the  supposed  dead  man 
jumped  up  and  grasped  the  doctor's  throat.  The  doctor 
was  terrified,  and  died  of  apoplexy  on  the  spot,  but  the 
'  dead  '  man  recovered  fully." 

Brigade-Surgeon  W.  Curran  in  his  eighth  paper, 
entitled  "  Buried  Alive,"  relates  the  following : — "  At 
the  Medical  College  at  Calcutta,  on  the  1st  of  Feb- 
ruary, 1 86 1,"  so  writes  my  friend  as  above,  "the  body 
of  a  Hindu  male,  about  twenty-five  years  of  age,  was 
brought  from  the  police  hospital  for  dissection.  .  .  . 
It  was  brought  to  the  dissecting-room  about  six 
a.m.,  and  the  arteries  were  injected  with  arsenical 
solution  about  seven.  At  eleven  the  prosector  opened 
the  thorax  and  abdomen  for  the  purpose  of  dissecting 
the  sympathetic  nerve.  At  noon  Mr.  Macnamara 
distinctly  saw  the  heart  beating;  there  was  a  regular 
rhythmical  vermicular  action  of  the  right  auricle  and 
ventricle.  The  pericardium  was  open,  the  heart  being 
freely  exposed,  and  lying  to  the  left  in  its  natural 
position.  The  heart's  action,  although  regular,  was 
very  weak  and  slow.  The  left  auricle  was  also  in 
action,  but  the  left  ventricle  was  contracted  and  rigid, 
and  apparently  motionless.  These  spontaneous  con- 
tractions continued  till  about  12.45  p-m.,  and,  further, 
the  right  side  of  this  organ  contracted  on  the  application 
of  a  stimulus,  such  as  the  point  of  a  scalpel,  etc.,  for  a 
quarter  of  an  hour  longer." — Health,  May  21,  1886,  p.  121. 

Bruhier,  in  his  work,  "  Dissertation  sur  1'Incertitude 
de  la  Mort  et  1'Abus  des  Enterrements,"  records  a 
number  of  cases  of  the  supposed  dead,  who,  after  burial, 
were  revived  at  the  dissecting  table,  together  with  fifty- 
three  that  awoke  in  their  coffins  before  being  buried, 


fifty-two  persons  actually  buried  alive,  and  seventy-two 
other  cases  of  apparent  death.  This  was  at  a  time 
when  body-snatching  was  in  vogue,  and  it  is  a  curious 
comment  on  our  civilization  to  be  compelled  to  admit 
that  a  subject  of  trance  or  catalepsy  during  the 
eighteenth  or  the  early  part  of  the  last  century  had 
a  better  chance  of  escape  from  so  terrible  a  fate  than 
now,  when  the  vocation  of  the  resurrection-man  has 
become  obsolete. 



AT  the  conclusion  of  a  series  of  inquests  at  Stepney, 
on  September  5,  1903,  Mr.  Wynne  E.  Baxter,  the 
coroner,  mentioned  an  extraordinary  case  which  bears 
immediately  upon  the  subject  of  death-certification. 

It  appears  that  a  little  child  had  been  twice  attended 
to  in  the  casualty  department  of  the  East  London 
Children's  Hospital  for  some  trifling  disorder.  A  few 
days  after  the  last  visit  to  that  institution,  the  mother 
went  to  pick  the  child  up,  and  found  it  apparently 
dead.  Under  this  apprehension  she  went  to  the  hospital 
and  endeavoured  to  obtain  a  death-certificate,  but  on 
her  return  home  she  found  the  child  alive.  The 
casualty  officer  at  the  hospital,  who  had  found  nothing 
sufficiently  wrong  with  the  child  to  account  for  the 
sudden  death,  refused  a  certificate,  and  reported  the 
supposed  death  to  the  coroner.  The  assistant  officer  of 
the  coroner  then  proceeded  to  arrange  the  preliminaries 
for  an  inquest,  but  on  calling  at  the  parent's  house 
found  the  child  alive. 

The  recital  of  this  case  was  the  cause  of  consider- 
able public  criticism,  and  several  of  the  daily  news- 
papers dwelt  strongly  upon  the  alleged  lax  and 
perfunctory  manner  of  granting  death  certificates  in 
hospitals.  The  British  Medical  Journal,  of  September 

THE    STATE    OF    THE    LAW.  283 

12,  commenting  upon  this  criticism,  says: —  "To 
impose  on  hospital  residents  the  duty  of  viewing  the 
corpse  in  every  case  before  granting  a  death  certifi- 
cate would  be  to  disorganise  totally  every  department 
of  the  hospital  on  many  days  of  the  week.  Such  a 
duty,  moreover,  is  not  imposed  on  private  practitioners, 
who  have  many  more  facilities  for  visiting  their 
patients'  residences.  To  expect  the  visiting  out- 
patient staff,  too,  to  view  the  corpse  before  granting 
a  death-certificate  would  be.  to  inflict  such  a  burden 
that  no  gentlemen  would  be  found  willing  to  take 
such  posts." 

In  the  present  case  the  casualty  officer  had  found 
nothing  sufficiently  wrong  to  account  for  death,  "yet," 
continues  the  British  Medical  Journal,  "  had  the  child 
been  seriously  ill  on  his  seeing  it,  and  the  death  was 
reported  to  him  by  the  nearest  relative,  the  mother, 
he  would  have  had  no  option  allowed  him  by  the 
law  but  to  grant  the  certificate." 

This  sums  up  very  fairly  the  present  state  of  the 
law  as  to  the  granting  of  death-certificates.  It  is  the 
regular  practice  of  medical  men,  who  have  been  in 
attendance  upon  patients  seriously  ill,  to  accept  the 
statement  of  the  friends  that  the  patient  has  died, 
and  to  give  a  certificate  at  once  without  any  inspec- 
tion of  the  body.  According  to  the  legal  form  of 
death  -  certificate,  "printed  by  the  authority  of  the 
Registrar-General,"  he  is  under  no  obligation  to  satisfy 
himself  that  the  patient  is  dead  ;  indeed,  a  space  is 
left  for  him  to  write  the  words  "as  I  am  informed," 
should  he  not  be  satisfied  about  it.  And,  whilst 
elaborate  instructions  are  given  as  to  the  way  in 


which  the  death  -  certificates  are  to  be  filled  up,  no- 
caution  or  instruction  is  given  as  to  the  absolute 
signs  of  death,  or  what  steps  should  be  taken  in 
doubtful  cases. 

An  illustration  of  this  lack  of  investigation  before 
granting  a  death  -  certificate  occurred  a  few  months 
prior  to  the  case  cited  above,  namely,  in  July,  1903* 
at  Glamorgan  Assizes,  when  a  married  woman  was 
charged  with  unlawfully  obtaining  by  false  pretences 
the  sum  of  £3  los.  from  the  Royal  London  Friendly 
Society,  in  respect  of  the  alleged  death  of  her  child, 
at  Swansea,  on  i/th  June.  The  Grand  Jury  made 
some  very  pertinent  observations  regarding  the  con- 
duct of  the  doctor  in  granting  a  certificate  of  death 
without  actual  knowledge;  and  Mr.  Justice  Channell, 
before  passing  sentence,  offered  the  doctor  an  oppor- 
tunity of  giving  an  explanation  of  the  course  he  had 
pursued.  The  doctor  claimed  "  the  usual  practice  'r 
as  his  excuse,  and,  after  a  long  colloquy,  the  judge 
remarked:  "I  am  quite  sure,  if  this  custom  is  universal, 
it  is  nevertheless  wrong." 


A  Select  Committee  of  the  House  of  Commons,, 
under  the  chairmanship  of  Sir  Walter  Foster,  M.D., 
was  appointed  on  March  27,  1893,  to  inquire  into  the 
subject  of  death-certification  in  the  United  Kingdom. 
Fourteen  sittings  were  held,  and  thirty-two  witnesses 
examined.  All  the  witnesses  practically  agreed  as 
to  the  serious  defects  in  the  law,  and  a  number  of 
recommendations  were  made.  It  was  shown  that  in 
about  four  per  cent,  of  the  cases  the  cause  of  death 


was  ill  defined  and  unspecified,  many  practitioners 
having  forms  specially  printed  for  their  own  use,  in 
which  all  mention  of  medical  attendance  was  omitted, 
the  object  being  to  enable  the  doctor  to  give  certificates 
in  cases  which  he  has  never  attended.  Numerous 
deaths  attended  by  unqualified  practitioners  were  certi- 
fied by  qualified  practitioners  who  had  probably  never 
seen  the  cases;  and  deaths  were  certified  by  medical 
practitioners  who  had  not  seen  the  patient  for  weeks  or 
months  prior  to  death,  and  who  knew  only  by  hearsay 
of  the  deaths  having  occurred.  Deaths  were  also 
certified  in  which  the  true  cause  was  suppressed  in 
deference  to  the  feelings  of  survivors;  these  last  in 
particular  were  reported  to  be  very  numerous. 

In  Q.  2552-83  remarkable  evidence  was  produced 
as  to  the  reckless  mode  of  death -certification.  One 
medical  witness  testified  that  he  saw  a  certificate  of 
death,  signed  by  a  registered  medical  practitioner, 
giving  both  the  fact  and  the  cause  of  death  of  a  man 
who  was  actually  alive  at  the  time,  and  who  lived  four 
days  afterwards,  with  facts  of  even  a  more  startling 
character  described  as  "  murder  made  easy."  It  was 
pointed  out  that  fraud  and  irregularity  in  giving  false 
declarations  of  death  are  by  no  means  infrequent. 
Various  other  matters  were  treated,  and  the  following 
are  some  of  their  recommendations: — 

1.  That  in  no  case  should  a  death  be  registered  without  the 
production  of  a  certificate  of  the  cause  of  death  by  a  registered 
medical  practitioner,  or  by  a  coroner  after  inquest,  or,  in  Scotland, 
by  a  procurator-fiscal. 

2.  That  in  each  sanitary  district  a  registered  medical  practitioner 
should  be  appointed  as  public  medical  certifier  of  the  cause  of 


death  in  cases  in  which  a  certificate  from  a  medical  practitioner 
in  attendance  was  not  forthcoming. 

3.  That  a  medical  practitioner  in  attendance  should  be  required, 
before  giving  a  certificate  of  death,  to  personally  inspect  the  body, 
but  if,  on  the  ground  of  distance,  or  for  other  sufficient  reason,  he 
is  unable  to  make  this  inspection  himself,  he  should  obtain  and 
attach  to  the  certificate  of  the  cause  of  death  a  certificate  signed 
by  two  persons,  neighbours,  verifying  the  fact  of  death. 

4.  That  medical  practitioners  be  required  to  send  certificates 
of  death  direct  to  the  registrar  instead  of  handing  them  to  the 
relatives  of  the  deceased. 

5.  That  a  form  of  certificate  of  death  should  be  prescribed,  and 
that  medical  practitioners  should  be  required  to  use  such  form. 


As  a  commentary  upon  the  above  recommendations, 
the  Times  of  May  23,  1896,  publishes  the  following- 

"  At  the  special  meeting  of  the  Metropolitan  Counties 
Branch  of  the  British  Medical  Association,  held  last 
night  at  the  Museum  of  Practical  Geology,  Jermyn 
Street,  the  subject  of  an  improvement  in  the  present 
procedure  in  death  certification  and  registration  came 
up  for  discussion.  Sir  W.  Priestley,  M.P.,  president, 
took  the  chair. 

"  Sir  Henry  Thompson  moved  the  following  resolu- 
tion:— 'Considering  that  a  Select  Committee  of  the 
House  of  Commons  has  in  1893  made  an  extended 
inquiry  into  the  subject  of  death  certification  and 
registration  on  the  plan  now  followed  in  this  country, 
and  has  reported  that  it  manifestly  fails  to  accomplish 
the  purpose  for  which  it  was  designed,  this  meeting  is 
of  opinion  that  Her  Majesty's  Government  should  be 


respectfully  memorialized  to  bring  in  a  bill  as  soon  as 
possible  to  give  effect  to  an  improved  procedure  in 
general  accordance  with  the  suggestions  offered  in  the 
Committee's  report.'  He  said  that,  during  the  last 
twenty  years  or  more,  circumstances  had  not  unfre- 
quently  occurred  to  attract  public  attention  to  the 
existence  of  grave  defects  in  the  system  of  death- 
certification  adopted  in  this  country,  whether  regarded 
as  a  safeguard  against  criminal  attempts  on  life  or 
as  a  means  of  forming  trustworthy  records  of  disease 
for  scientific  purposes.  From  the  Registrar-General's 
report  for  England  and  Wales  for  the  year  1892,  it 
was  shown  that  in  fifteen  thousand  cases  of  death  no 
inquiry  had  been  made  as  to  its  cause,  and  that  no 
certificate  had  been  obtained  from  any  source  —  a 
number  amounting  to  nearly  three  per  cent,  on  the 
total  returned  for  the  year.  On  the  same  authority  it 
appeared  that  in  twenty-five  thousand  more,  or  four  and 
a  half  per  cent,  the  cases  *  were  so  inadequately  certified 
as  not  to  be  classifiable,'  making  together  a  class  of 
seven  and  a  half  per  cent,  in  which  no  evidence  of  any 
value  as  to  the  cause  of  death  existed.  After  what  had 
already  been  done  in  the  matter,  all  that  appeared  to 
be  necessary  at  present  seemed  to  him  to  be  that  they 
should  forward  a  memorial  to  the  Home  Secretary,  with 
a  request  that  he  would  consider  the  important  work 
which  had  been  already  done  by  the  Select  Committee, 
and,  if  he  saw  fit,  take  steps  to  embody  their  recom- 
mendations in  an  Act  of  Parliament,  for  the  purpose  of 
giving  the  country  a  greatly  improved  procedure  in 
exchange  for  that  at  present  employed.  Dr.  Isambard 
Owen,  in  the  absence  of  Dr.  Farquharson,  M.P.,  seconded 


the  resolution,  and  asserted  that  the  State  now  winked 
at  an  exceedingly  loose  system  of  death-certification, 
since  under  the  present  procedure  it  was  possible  for  a 
medical  man  to  give  a  death  certificate  on  a  patient 
whom  he  might  not  have  seen  for  an  interval  of  several 
weeks,  and  perhaps  months.  The  resolution  was  sup- 
ported by  Dr.  Nelson  Hardy,  Dr.  Alderson,  Dr.  Hugh 
Woods,  Dr.  Sykes,  and  others,  and  was  unanimously 


The  condition  of  things  mentioned  by  Sir  Henry 
Thompson  has  improved  somewhat  in  succeeding  years, 
but  it  leaves  much  to  be  desired.  In  reply  to  Mr. 
Corrie  Grant,  Mr.  Akers  Douglas,  the  Home  Secretary, 
stated  on  the  5th  March,  1903,  that  the  numbers  of 
deaths  of  which  the  causes  were  not  certified  are  as 
follows  : — 

1897  ...          ...          ...          11,103 

1898  ...          ...          ...          10,441 

1899  10,745 

1900  ...         ...         ...         11,257 

1901  ...         ...         ...  9;986 

The  matter  is  dealt  with  on  p.  xxix.  of  the  Registrar 
General's  Report  for  1902.  The  last  published  figures 
for  1901  represent  slightly  under  two  per  cent,  of  all 
registered  deaths. 

The  Parliamentary  Committee  above  referred  to 
omitted  an  unexampled  opportunity  of  inquiring  into 
the  facts  of  premature  burial.  They  could  have  sum- 
moned pathologists  who  had  made  trance  and  catalepsy 
a  subject  of  close  and  searching  investigation,  as  well  as 


physicians  who,  in  their  practice,  have  been  called  in  to 
decide  upon  cases  of  apparent  death,  and  witnesses  up 
and  down  the  country  who  know  of  such  cases,  and 
others  who  have  met  with  narrow  escapes  from  these 
horrible  mishaps.  Instead  of  taking  this  reasonable 
course  of  procedure,  the  Committee  contented  them- 
selves by  examining  two  or  three  medical  men,  who  had 
been  summoned  to  give  evidence  upon  the  irregularities 
of  death  certification  only,  and  whose  negative  and 
apathetic  replies  showed  either  that  the  subject  had 
never  engaged  their  attention  or  that  they  were 
unwilling  to  charge  any  member  of  the  profession  with 
a  fault  so  ruinous  to  his  professional  reputation  as  to  be 
unable  to  discriminate  between  the  living  and  -the  dead. 
No  questions  were  submitted  to  the  witnesses  as  to  the 
signs  of  death,  the  characteristics  of  catalepsy,  trance, 
asphyxia,  syncope,  etc.,  or  how  to  distinguish  these  from 
death,  or  with  reference  to  the  submission  of  tests  in 
doubtful  cases  in  order  to  ascertain  the  fact  of  death. 
Indeed,  it  may  be  observed  that  the  investigation 
regarding  a  most  vital  point  connected  with  death- 
certification  appears  to  have  entirely  escaped  the  notice 
of  this  tribunal. 

THE  BURIAL  ACT  OF  1900. 

This  Act  of  Parliament,  which  involves  important 
changes  in  the  law  affecting  burial  authorities,  came 
into  operation  on  the  1st  January,  1901.  That  is, 
seven  years  after  the  Parliamentary  enquiry  already 
referred  to,  and  more  than  four  years  after  the  pass- 
ing of  the  important  resolution  quoted  above.  Among 
the  clauses  are  the  following  : — 


i,  Consecration  ;  2,  chapels  ;  3,  fees  ;  4,  transfer  of  powers  to 
Local  Government  Board  ;  5,  inquiries  by  Secretary  of  State  ; 
6,  protection  of  unconsecrated  burial  ground  ;  7,  obligation  of 
incumbent  as  to  burial  ;  8,  notes  of  intention  to  bury  ;  9,  ap- 
plication of  certain  provisions  of  Burial  Acts  to  cemeteries  under 
42  and  43  Viet.,  c.  31  ;  10,  boundary  fences  ;  u,  meaning  of  burial 
authority;  12,  repeal;  13,  short  title  and  commencement. 

All  these  matters  are  of  undoubted  importance, 
but  their  importance  is  trifling  compared  with  that  of 
seeing  that  the  subject  of  them  is  not  only  apparently 
but  actually  dead.  Attention  was  called  to  this 
important  oversight  in  the  press  while  the  bill  was 
before  Parliament;  but  in  spite  of  this,  and  of  the 
Parliamentary  Committee's  recommendations,  and  of 
Sir  Henry  Thompson's  efforts,  no  change  was  made 
in  the  matter  of  death-certification. 

On  March  23  of  the  same  year  in  which  this 
Act  came  into  force,  TJie  Medical  Times  deals  forcibly 
with  the  subject,  and  says  :— - 

".  .  .  Briefly,  our  position  is  this.  At  present,  in  this 
country,  there  is  no  regular  system  of  examining  the  bodies  of 
persons  assumed  to  be  dead  before  certificates  of  the  cause  of 
death  are  given,  and  the  latter  certificate  is  the  sole  legal 
requirement  to  obtain  the  burial  of  the  body.  It  is,  therefore, 
manifestly  possible — and,  indeed,  various  cases  have  occurred 
which  prove  the  possibility — that  a  certificate  of  the  cause  of 
death  might  be  quite  innocently  given  by  a  medical  practitioner 
before  the  patient  had  actually  died.  It  would  be  quite  sufficient 
in  many  cases,  for  example,  for  the  doctor  to  have  seen  the 
patient  apparently  in  a  moribund  state,  say,  in  the  morning,  and 
a  relative  to  call  at  his  house  in  the  afternoon,  announce  the 
patient's  death,  and  ask  for  a  certificate,  and  it  would  be  given. 
It  has,  indeed,  actually  happened  that,  in  all  good  faith,  such  a 
statement  has  been  made,  and  a  certificate  given,  while  the 
patient  was  not  only  not  dead,  but  finally  recovered.  In  the 

THE    BURIAL    ACT    OF    IQOO.  2QI 

next  place,  it  is  within  the  bounds  of  possibility  that  such  a 
patient,  in  a  comatose  state,  might  be  placed  in  a  coffin  and 
actually  buried  without  being  really  dead.  The  occurrence,  in 
short,  is  possible,  and  we  do  not  at  present  desire  to  press  the 
argument  further.  .  .  .  Suffice  it  to  say  that,  if  the  possibility 
of  any  person  being  buried  alive  be  admitted,  every  human 
instinct  must  demand  that  measures  should  be  taken  to  make 
such  an  occurrence  absolutely  impossible." 

This  important  pronouncement  by  a  responsible 
medical  journal  should  give  pause  to  those  who  are 
given  to  pooh-pooh  and  ridicule  the  subject,  and 
should  have  some  weight  with  members  of  Parliament 
in  urging  forward  this  much  needed  legislation. 

The  London  Association  for  the  Prevention  of 
Premature  Burial  has  been  indefatigable  in  pressing 
this  important  matter  upon  public  and  Parliamentary 
attention,  and  a  resolution  passed  by  its  executive 
council  on  January  15,  1903,  states  very  succinctly 
the  position  it  takes  up  :— 

"  That  this  council  desires  to  call  the  attention  of  urban  and 
rural  sanitary  authorities  to  the  dangers  of  premature  burial 
arising  from  the  absence  of  a  proper  system  of  death -verifica- 
tion. That  the  fact  admitted  by  the  Home  Secretary,  that  over 
eleven  thousand  persons  are  annually  buried  in  England  and 
Wales  without  any  death-certificate,  illustrates  the  extreme  care- 
lessness and  haste  with  which  persons  apparently  dead  are  con- 
signed to  the  grave  without  any  adequate  inquiry  as  to  the  fact 
of  death.  That  the  discovery  of  the  fact  of  live  burial,  should 
it  occur,  is  almost  impossible  in  the  present  state  of  the  law, 
which  forbids  the  exhumation  of  the  corpse  without  the  order  of 
the  Home  Secretary.  The  sanitary  and  other  local  bodies  are, 
therefore,  urged  to  support  a  Parliamentary  measure  for  provid- 
ing guarantees  against  premature  burial,  whilst  facilitating 
exhumation  in  cases  where  these  guarantees  have  been  omitted." 

As    the    late    Col.   Vollum    well    wrote,   just    before 


his  death,  "  the  core  and  essence  of  a  protective  law 
should  consist  in  the  reasonable  and  systematic 
registration  of  a  certificate  of  verified  death,  rendered 
by  a  qualified  physician  after  his  personal  examination 
of  the  body,  before  the  issue  of  a  permit  for  burial 
or  other  disposal  of  the  body." 

The  carelessness  with  which  a  certificate  may  be 
given  in  consequence  of  the  existence  of  a  law  which 
fails  to  bind  upon  a  medical  practitioner  the  necessity 
of  carefully  examining  an  alleged  dead  body  before 
giving  a  certificate  is  illustrated  by  the  following  singu- 
lar case,  reported  in  the  Times  of  January  19,  1878: — 

"  A  poor  woman  lay  very  ill  in  her  scantily-furnished 
home  in  Sheffield.  The  doctor  was  sent  for,  and 
came.  He  at  once  saw  that  hers  was  a  very  grave 
case,  and  that  she  had,  as  he  thought,  little  chance 
of  recovery,  even  if  she  could  get  the  nourishment 
her  illness  required.  As  he  was  about  to  leave,  the 
question  was  put,  '  When  should  we  send  for  you 
again,  doctor  ?'  '  Well/ was  the  reply,  as  he  looked  at 
the  poor  woman  and  then  at  her  wretched  surround- 
ings, '  I  don't  think  you  need  send  for  me  again. 
She  cannot  possibly  get  better ;  and  to  save  you 
further  trouble  I'll  just  write  you  out  a  certificate  for 
her  burial.'  And  he  did.  After  the  doctor  departed 
the  woman — women  always  were  wilful — got  better 
rapidly.  She  has  now  completely  recovered,  and  goes 
about  carrying  her  burial  certificate  with  her." 


"  In  Paris  and  the  large  French  towns  medical  in- 
spectors, called  medecins  verificateurs,  are  appointed, 


whose  business  it  is  to  visit  each  house  where  a. 
death  occurs,  and  ascertain  that  the  person  is  really 
dead,  and  that  there  are  no  suspicious  circumstances 
connected  with  his  or  her  decease.  More  than  eighty 
qualified  medical  men  are  employed  for  this  purpose 
in  Paris. 

':  In  the  rural  districts  of  France  this  system  is  not 
in  force ;  two  witnesses  making  a  declaration  to  a  civil 
officer  that  a  death  has  taken  place  is  considered 
sufficient.  The  burial  is  not  allowed  to  take  place 
until  at  least  twenty-four  hours  after  the  declaration." 
— Blyth:  "Dictionary  of  Hygiene  and  Public  Health." 

Dr.  Leonce  Lenormand,  in  his  admirable  work,  "  Des 
Inhumations  Precipitees,"  p.  140,  accuses  the  inedecins 
des  murts  in  France  with  culpable  carelessness  in  the 
exercise  of  their  function,  which  consists  in  verifying 
the  reality  of  the  death.  Instead  of  making  a  minute 
examination  of  the  body  to  ascertain  the  fact  of  death, 
this  writer  says  they  are  content  (except  in  cases  of 
death  from  violence)  to  merely  glance  at  the  body,  and 
immediately  hand  the  family  the  necessary  authorisa- 
tion for  interment.  The  inspector  knows  that  if  he 
examined  every  part  of  the  body,  as  in  duty  bound, 
he  would  be  accused  of  barbarism  and  profanation. 
In  France,  in  spite  of  medecins  v'erificateurs,  probably 
more  premature  burials  occur  than  in  any  country  in 
Europe,  except  Turkey,  immediate  burial  after  real  or 
apparent  death  being  the  inexorable  rule.  Dr.  Lenor- 
mand attributes  the  frequency  of  premature  burials  in 
France,  first  of  all,  to  the  negligence  and  prejudices 
of  the  families  of  the  deceased  ;  then  to  the  careless- 
ness of  the  doctors  charged  by  the  State  with  the 


inspection  of  the  dead ;  and,  lastly,  to  the  imperfection 
of  the  police  regulations. 

The  British  Medical  Journal,  January  28,  1893,  P-  2O4 
(Special  Correspondence,  Paris),  writing  on  this  subject, 
says :— 

"  The  7/th  Article  of  the  Code  obliges  the  officier  de 
I'e tat  civil  to  visit  the  death-bed  and  verify  every  death  ; 
but  this  Article  is  a  dead  letter.  The  officer  in  question 
has  neither  time  nor  knowledge  sufficient  to  put  it  in 
practice.  In  small  country  places,  rarely  any  precau- 
tions are  taken  to  prevent  premature  burials.  In  more 
important  villages  and  towns,  the  mayors  delegate  the 
doctors  of  the  locality  to  verify  deaths  before  burial. 
Throughout  the  whole  of  France,  it  appears  that  there 
are  not  fifty  towns  where  the  death- verify  ing  service  is 
well  organised  ;  and,  on  an  average,  there  are  from 
twenty  thousand  to  thirty  thousand  burials  without 
previous  verification  of  death.  The  declaration  of  two 
witnesses  is  sufficient,  who  obtain  their  information  from 
those  around  the  deceased.  In  Paris,  the  two  mortuaries 
already  in  existence — one  at  the  Montmartre,  the  other 
at  Pere  La  Chaise — are  rarely  used.  The  bodies  of  those 
who  die  in  the  streets,  from  accident  or  sudden  death, 
are  taken  there  when  there  is  no  domicile;  also,  those 
of  foreigners  who  die  in  lodging-houses.  In  the  course 
of  eighteen  months  the  mortuary  of  Montmartre  re- 
ceived five  dead  bodies,  and  Pere  La  Chaise  one. 


Extracts  from  "  Regulations  for  the  Domiciliary 
Examination  of  the  Dead  in  the  City  of  Brussels 
Civil  Government  (Medical  Service)." 


"ARTICLE  i. — The  Medical  Service  of  the  Civil  Government 
is  distributed  among  the  medical  heads  of  divisions,  the  deputies 
and  chiefs  of  the  Department  of  Hygiene." 

"ARTICLE  5. — No  interment  can  take  place  except  after  the 
•decease  has  been  verified  by  the  doctors  of  the  Civil  Govern- 
ment by  means  of  a  careful  and  complete  examination  of  the 

This  verification,  as  well  as  the  identity  of  the  person 
deceased,  shall  be  certified  by  a  prods-verbal  [state- 
ment or  description,  for  which  a  blank  is  furnished 
"A"],  which  they  shall  leave  at  the  house  of  the 

"ARTICLE  8. — They  shall  notify  the  officers  of  the  Civil  Govern- 
ment, and  their  superintendents  of  police,  of  any  infractions  of 
the  regulation  provisions  which  forbid  proceeding  with  autopsy, 
moulding  [making  a  cast?],  embalmment,  or  putting  in  a  coffin 
the  corpse,  before  the  death  has  been  duly  ascertained." 

"ARTICLE  9. — The  verification  of  the  decease  of  still-born  or 
of  newly-born  infants  shall  exact  a  most  attentive  examination 
on  the  part  of  the  examining  doctors.  They  shall  indicate  in 
their  report  if  the  infant  has  died  before,  during,  or  after  birth  ; 
and,  in  the  last  case,  how  long  it  lived  after  birth." 

"ARTICLE  10. — If  they  doubt  the  reality  of  the  death,  they 
shall  employ,  without  delay,  every  means  of  recovery  that  science 
suggests  under  the  circumstances.  They  shall  immediately  notify 
the  visiting  doctor,  and,  in  every  case,  shall  prepare  the  proces- 
verbal  of  the  verification  of  death  only  after  certainty  has  been 
established,  and,  if  need  be,  by  repeated  visits." 

"ARTICLE  n. — When  a  woman  has  died  in  a  state  of  advanced 
pregnancy,  they  shall  direct  the  artificial  extraction  of  the  infant, 
supposed  to  be  yet  living  ;  and,  in  the  lack  of  an  attending 
doctor,  shall  perform  it  themselves  when  -necessary." 



The  contrast  between  the  laxity  at  home  and  the 
regulations  laid  down  by  authority  in  Wurtembtirg, 
Bavaria,  and  other  Continental  States,  is  remarkable, 
and  should  receive  the  attention  of  the  Registrar- 
General  without  delay. 

A  Royal  Decree,  entitled  "  Dienst-Vorschriften  fur 
Leichenhaiiser,"  for  the  inspection  and  burial  of  the 
dead,  promulgated  by  the  King  of  Wurtemburg, 
January  24,  1884,  provides  for  the  appointment  of 
medical  inspectors  of  the  highest  integrity  and  qualifi- 
cations in  every  commune,  the  position  being  justly 
regarded  as  one  of  great  responsibility. 

Immediately  after  a  death,  the  body  must  under  no 
circumstances  be  interfered  with,  and  must  not  be 
removed  from  the  death-bed  until  after  the  authorised 
inspection.  Post-mortems  can  be  made  only  if  the  fact 
of  death  has  been  previously  clearly  established.  Pre- 
cise instructions  are  laid  down,  so  that  the  inspector, 
who  is  to  examine  the  entire  body,  may  see  that  the 
various  forms  of  suspended  animation  are  not  certified 
as  actual  death.  Amongst  these  are  the  following  :— 

"  Section  ii. — To  see  that  sensibility,  pulsation  of  the  heart, 
neck,  temples,  and  forearm,  and  the  breath,  have  ceased.  That 
the  muscles  of  the  body  have  lost  their  elasticity  ;  therefore  the 
limbs  are  limp,  the  face  sunken,  the  nose  pinched,  the  eyes 
sunken,  and  when  the  eye-lids  are  forcibly  opened  they  remain 
so,  the  lower  jaw  drops  more  or  less,  and  drops  again  when 
pressed  upwards. 

"In  actual  death  the  body  gradually  gets  colder,  beginning 
with  the  exposed  limbs,  and  in  from  ten  to  sixteen  hours  the 
body  will  be  quite  cold.  The  colour  of  the  face  becomes  ashy 


pale,  and  the  lips  discoloured.  The  eye  loses  its  brilliancy,  and 
is  usually  dulled  by  a  covering  of  dried  mucus. 

"  If  all  the  foregoing  symptoms  are  exhibited,  and  particularly 
if  the  deceased  was  of  an  advanced  age,  or  if  the  death  was 
caused  by  severe  or  long  illness,  which  led  to  the  expectation  of 
a  fatal  result,  the  fact  of  death  may  be  safely  assumed. 

"  But,  on  the  other  hand,  if  part  of  these  symptoms  are  missing, 
or  in  cases  of  pregnancy,  or  exhaustion  in  consequence  of  flooding 
after  confinement,  or  if  death  occurs  under  fits,  or  in  violent  out- 
bursts of  passion,  the  possibility  of  counterfeit-death  is  to  be 
taken  for  granted. 

"Notwithstanding  the  existence  of  all  the  symptoms  (signs  of 
death)  before  mentioned,  the  possibility  of  apparent  death  is  not 
excluded  in  cases  where  the  death  has  occurred  after  syncope, 
tetanus,  suffocation,  or  in  cases  of  drowning,  stroke  of  lightning,. 
or  from  a  severe  fall,  or  from  frost,  or  in  still-born  children." 

After  detailing  instructions  as  to  a  variety  of  experi- 
ments to  ascertain  whether  the  death  is  actual  or 
apparent,  this  Royal  Decree  proceeds  :— 

"  Section  viii. — These  experiments  may,  however,  not  give 
absolute  certainty  as  to  the  complete  extinction  of  all  life.  If, 
therefore,  the  slightest  doubt  remains  as  to  the  reality  of  death, 
the  inspector  is  to  take  the  necessary  precautions  for  the  protec- 
tion of  the  deceased,  by  frequent  inspections,  and  the  most 
careful  examinations,  and  to  obtain  the  assistance  of  the  nearest 
physician  or  surgeon,  who  is  to  co-operate  with  him  to  promote 
resuscitation.  If  these  attempts  prove  abortive,  he  must  see  that 
nothing  is  done  which  would  be  detrimental  to  reanimation,  or 
resumption  of  life." 

Then  follow  minute  instructions  how  to  proceed 
under  the  varied  circumstances  which  may  have  pro- 
duced the  symptoms  known  as  apparent  death.  In  no 
case  must  the  burial- certificate  be  handed  over  by  the 
inspector  until  he  has  thoroughly  satisfied  himself  of  the 
presence*  of  unmistakable  signs  of  actual  death. 


One  cannot  help  contrasting  these  carefully  con- 
sidered rules  with  the  lax  and  haphazard  methods  of 
dealing  with  the  dead  and  apparent  dead  both  in 
England  and  in  the  United  States.  As  a  consequence, 
cases  of  premature  burial  in  Wiirtemburg  are  of  very 
rare  occurrence,  and  sensible  people  in  that  country, 
knowing  that  the  danger  of  premature  burial  has  been 
reduced  to  a  minimum,  are  not  consumed  by  an  ever- 
abiding  anxiety,  as  with  us;  nor  is  it  the  custom  for 
testators  in  Wiirtemburg  to  give  instructions  to  their 
executors  for  piercing  the  heart  or  severing  the  jugular 
vein,  or  some  other  form  of  mutilation,  as  in  France, 
Spain,  and  other  countries,  where  the  risks  are  so 
terribly  great. 

The  only  case  of  the  danger  of  premature  burial  that 
has  come  to  the  author's  notice  in  Wiirtemburg  is 
related  by  Bouchut,  in  his  "  Signes  de  la  Mort,"  p.  48  : — 

"In  the  village  of  Achen,  in  Wiirtemburg,  Mrs.  Eva 
Meyers,  twenty-three  years  of  age,  was  taken  ill 
during  an  epidemic.  Her  condition  became  rapidly 
worse,  and  she  apparently  died.  They  put  her  into  a 
coffin,  and  carried  her  from  the  warm  into  a  cold 
room,  there  to  await  burial,  which  was  to  take  place 
at  two  p.m.  on  the  following  day.  Shortly  after  noon 
on  that  day,  and  before  the  carriers  arrived,  she 
awoke  and  made  an  effort  to  rise.  Her  aunt,  who 
was  present,  and  who  believed  that  a  ghost  had  taken 
possession  of  her,  took  a  stick  and  would  have  killed 
her,  if  she  had  not  been  prevented  by  another  woman. 
Nevertheless,  she  succeeded  in  pushing  the  body  back 
violently  into  the  coffin,  after  which  she  indignantly 
went  to  her  room.  The  patient  remained  helplessly 


in  that  condition,  and  would  have  been  buried  if  the 
usual  hour  for  the  burial  had  not  for  some  reason 
been  changed.  Thus  she  remained  for  another  twelve 
hours,  when  she  was  able  to  gather  sufficient  strength 
to  arise.  She  still  lives,  and  has  paid  the  charges  for 
her  funeral,  which  were  claimed  by  the  clergy,  the 
bell-ringer,  and  the  undertaker." 


In  the  United  States  the  subject  of  death-verification 
has  only  recently  begun  to  engage  public  attention. 
The  following,  at  Dover,  New  Hampshire,  appears  to 
be  the  only  instance  in  which  reasonable,  although  not 
altogether  adequate,  precautions  are  adopted: — 


"  SECTION  3. — Whenever  any  person  shall  die  within  the  limits 
of  the  city,  it  shall  be  the  duty  of  the  physician  attending  such 
person,  during  his  or  her  last  sickness,  to  examine  the  body  of 
such  deceased  person  before  the  burial  thereof,  and  to  make 
out  a  certificate  setting  forth,  as  far  as  the  same  may  be 
ascertained,  the  name,  age,  colour,  sex,  nativity,  occupation 
whether  married  or  single,  duration  of  residence  in  the  city, 
cause,  date,  and  place  of  death  of  such  deceased  person;  and 
it  shall  be  the  duty  of  the  undertaker,  or  other  person  in  charge 
of  the  burial  of  such  deceased  person,  to  add  to  such  certificate 
the  date  and  place  of  burial,  and,  having  duly  signed  the  same, 
to  deposit  it  with  the  city  clerk,  and  obtain  a  permit  for  burial; 
and  in  the  case  of  death  from  any  contagious  or  infectious  disease, 
said  certificate  shall  be  made  and  forwarded  immediately;  and, 
in  each  case  of  a  physician  so  examining  and  reporting,  he  shall 
receive  of  the  city  a  fee  of  one  dollar." 


''SECTION  4. — Whenever  a  permit  for  burial  is  applied  for,  in 
case  of  death  without  the  attendance  of  a  physician,  or  it  is 
impossible  to  obtain  a  physician's  certificate,  it  shall  be  the  duty 
of  the  city  physician  to  make  the  necessary  examination,  and  to 
investigate  the  case,  and  make  and  sign  a  certificate  of  the 
probable  cause  of  death ;  and,  if  not  satisfied  as  to  the  cause 
and  circumstances  attending  such  death,  he  shall  so  report  to 
the  mayor." 

"SECTION  5 — No  interment  or  disinterment  of  the  dead  body 
of  any  human  being,  or  disposition  thereof  in  any  tomb,  vault, 
or  cemetery,  shall  be  made  within  the  city  without  a  permit 
therefor,  granted  as  aforesaid,  nor  otherwise  than  in  accordance 
with  such  permit. 

"  Xo  undertaker,  superintendent  of  cemetery,  or  other  person, 
shall  assist  in,  assent  to,  or  allow  any  such  interment,  or 
disinterment,  to  be  made,  until  such  permit  has  been  given  as 

"  Any  person  violating  any  of  the  provisions  of  this  chapter 
shall  be  fined  not  less  than  ten  nor  more  than  twenty  dollars." 


Dr.  J.  Brinclley  Tames,  in  a  communication  to  the 
Medical  Times,  May  23,  1896,  pp.  355-356,  calls  atten- 
tion to  the  insufficient  safeguards  against  premature 
burial  under  the  present  system  of  death-certification, 
and  observes  : — "  The  dread  possibility  of  premature 
interment  ever  hangs  like  a  gloomy  sword  of  Damocles 
over  all  our  heads,  and  fearful  indeed  is  the  authentic 
record  of  persons  buried  alive,  who  have  recovered 
consciousness,  too  late,  alas  !  to  be  rescued  from  their 
frightful  dungeon.  How  often  does  our  overworked— 
we  do  not  say  careless — practitioner  sign  the  death- 
certificate  of  a  patient  whose  death-bed  he  did  not 
attend — whose  corpse  he  has  not  visited  ?  And,  even 


assuming  him  to  have  done  so,  and  conscientiously  too, 
in  how  many  of  the  fearful  cases  above  alluded  to 
have  not  these  formalities  proved  insufficient,  clearly 
suggesting  the  advisability  of  a  specialist,  experienced 
in  post-mortem  inspection,  solely  sanctioning  interment 
in  all  cases." 

The  Daily  Chronicle,  London,  September  16,  1895, 
in  a  leading  article  on  the  danger  of  premature  burial, 
says  : — "  The  truth  is,  the  whole  system  of  certifying 
for  burial  needs  to  be  reconsidered  and  reformed,  and 
that  for  other  reasons  than  the  danger  of  entombment 
before  life  is  extinct.  We  do  not  want  a  coroner's 
inquest,  with  its  jury,  for  every  death  ;  but  the  doctors 
should  be  compelled,  under  severe  penalties,  to  discover 
the  certain  sign  of  death  before  they  authorise  the 
burial,  and  to  know  the  cause  of  death  in  every  case. 
We  trust  now  too  much  to  individuals  in  a  generally 
trustworthy  profession,  who  may  not  reach  the  high 
general  standard  of  their  class,  or  may  grow  listless 
through  the  indifference  wrought  by  use  and  wont,  or 
who  think  they  can  detect  the  rigor  mortis  at  a  glance, 
never  having  seen  the  severest  form  of  catalepsy. 
There  would  be  no  difficulty  in  getting  Parliament  to 
pass  a  more  stringent  regulation  for  death-certificates 
without  much  discussion,  and  there  is  no  reason  why 
Sir  Matthew  White  Ridley  should  not  turn  his  attention 
to  the  matter,  and,  with  such  medical  advice  as  the 
Health  Department  of  the  Local  Government  Board 
will  be  pleased  to  lend  him,  propose  a  necessary  little 
bill  to  the  House  of  Commons  next  February." 

But  nearly  ten  years  have  passed  away  since  these 
warning  notes  were  sounded,  and  still  nothing  has 


been  done  by  the  Legislature  to  meet  the  crying  evil 
in  our  midst.  Surely  it  is  high  time  that  Parliament 
seriously  considered  this  important  question,  and  took 
steps  to  safeguard  the  terrible  possibilities,  which, 
under  the  present  lax  system  of  death  certification 
and  examination,  might  at  any  moment  overtake  any 
subject  of  this  realm. 



"  THERE  is  no  more  any  pathognomonic  sign  to 
determine  the  moment  of  death  than  there  is  to 
establish  the  diagnosis  of  typhoid  fever.  Just  as  in 
the  latter  it  is  a  combination  of  symptoms  observed 
which  makes  the  diagnosis  sure,  so  in  the  case  of 
death  it  is  a  collection  of  signs  which  gives  the 
physician  absolute  certainty,  and  he  alone  can  estimate 
their  value."  Thus  spoke  Dr.  Brouardel  during  the 
course  of  his  lectures  on  "  Death  and  Sudden  Death," 
delivered  to  the  students  of  the  Faculty  of  Medicine, 
Paris  ;  and  we  have  shown  with  some  degree  of  clear- 
ness in  chapter  xiii.  ("  Signs  of  Death,"  pp.  219-247) 
that  no  single  evidence  of  presumed  death  can  be 
absolutely  relied  upon,  and  that  nothing  but  the  sign 
of  putrefaction  can  afford  evidence  beyond  dispute. 

The  learned  Dr.  Vigne,  of  Rouen,  who  won  the 
respect  of  his  fellow-citizens  during  a  long  and  honour- 
able career,  was  for  many  years  engaged  in  the  study 
of  this  question,  and  published  the  result  of  his  re- 
searches shortly  before  his  death.  Convinced  that  the 
resources  of  science  were  insufficient  to  distinguish 
real  from  apparent  death,  he  left  testamentary  instruc- 
tions to  provide  against  his  own  premature  burial. 
("  Des  Inhumations  Precipitees,"  p.  83,  by  Lenormand.) 


The  noteworthy  provision  in  the  will  of  the  late 
Herbert  Spencer,  to  the  effect  that  "  my  body  shall 
be  placed  in  a  coffin  with  a  loose  lid  easily  opened 
from  below,"  implies  a  sufficiently  obvious  direction, 
and  manifests  that  the  dread  of  eminent  men  abroad 
is  shared  by  equally  eminent  men  in  this  country. 

Dr.  Winslow,  a  French  physician,  who  had  on  two 
different:  occasions  very  nearly  fallen  a  victim  to  pre- 
mature burial,  having  been  laid  out  for  dead,  chose  for 
the  subject  of  his  thesis  before  the  Paris  Faculty  of 
Medicine,  "  Les  moyens  les  plus  propres  a  reconnaitre 
la  realite  cle  la  mort."  Dr.  Winslow  may  be  said  to 
have  been  the  pioneer  of  a  movement  in  France  for 
exposing  the  danger,  and  for  educating  the  public  into 
the  necessity  of  reforms  in  the  mode  of  treating  the 
apparent  dead  ;  and  although  his  efforts  and  warnings 
were  as  of  one  crying  in  the  wilderness  or  amongst 
an  apathetic  people,  with  a  legislature  apparently 
uninfluenced  either  by  facts  or  by  reason,  they  were 
never  relaxed.  Numerous  writers  have  since  confirmed 
the  truth  of  Dr.  Winslow's  contention  by  facts  within 
their  own  experience,  and  it  is  believed  that  legislation 
in  France  cannot  be  much  longer  delayed. 

That  the  risk  of  premature  burial  is  not  an  imaginary 
one  has  been  shown  by  the  citation  in  this  volume  of 
cases  of  death-like  trance  which  have  baffled  the  ablest 
of  medical  experts  ;  also  the  instances  of  numerous 
narrow  escapes  from  this  terrible  occurrence,  and  of 
others  where  the  victims  were  suffocated  before  timely 
aid  could  be  obtained,  most  of  which  are  drawn  from 
medical  sources.  The  painful  reality  is  also  shown  by 
the  multitude  of  preventive  measures  suggested  by 


medical  authorities,  and  by  the  ingenious  contrivances 
of  those  who  have  made  this  distressing  subject  one  of 
patient  and  laborious  research.  Several  of  the  remedies 
suggested  for  adoption  in  cataleptic  cases  are  really 
homicidal,  or  seriously  mutilative  ;  many  of  them  are 
impracticable,  and  have  been  shown  by  Hufelancl, 
Lenormand,  Richardson,  Hartmann,  Bouchut,  Fletcher, 
and  Gannal,  to  be  delusive.  The  merits  and  demerits 
of  some  of  these  methods  might  be  inquired  into  by 
the  appointment  of  a  Parliamentary  Committee,  or  a 
Royal  Commission,  as  a  supplement  to  that  appointed 
in  1893,  by  Mr.  Asquith,  on  Death  Certification. 


From  time  immemorial  it  has  been  the  custom  in 
the  East,  and  even  in  some  parts  of  the  Continent,  to 
place  women  around  a  dead  man's  bed  to  cry  and 
howl  for  the  purpose  of  awaking  him  should  he  be 
only  apparently  dead.  Similarly,  not  only  the  auditory 
but  the  olfactory  nerves  have  been  submitted  to  attack, 
by  holding  beneath  the  nose  the  strongest  and  most 
offensive  substances.  Pricking  the  skin  with  sharp 
instruments  has  also  been  adopted,  and  one  savant, 
Josat  by  name,  obtained  first  prize  at  the  Academy 
of  France  for  the  invention  of  a  pair  of  clawed  forceps 
for  pinching  the  nipples  of  the  supposed  dead,  and  this 
method  held  premier  place  as  a  means  of  distinguishing 
real  from  apparent  death  until  it  was  demonstrated  that 
subjects  under  profound  hysteria  were  as  indifferent 
to  this  painfully  acute  process  as  the  dead.  Even 
the  eye  has  been  studied  with  a  view  to  establishing 
a  definite  conclusion  :  it  has  been  asserted  that, 


providing  the  lids  remain  open,  the  conjunctiva  and 
sclerotic  will  present  a  characteristic  brown  hue.  And 
a  further  plan,  which  created  some  stir  at  the  time  of 
its  announcement,  consisted  in  photographing  the  retina 
of  the  eye  immediately  after  supposed  death,  which,  it 
was  asserted,  retained  an  image  of  the  object  last 
gazed  upon.  But  this,  and  all  the  preceding  tests 
affecting  the  senses,  have  proved  to  be  fallacious. 


A  good  deal  of  importance  has  been  attached  to  the 
difference  between  a  blister  raised  during  life  and  one 
produced  after  death.  Mr.  George  T.  Angell,  the 
editor  of  Dumb  Animals,  Boston,  U.S.,  whose  father  was 
pronounced  by  his  physician  dead,  and  returned  to  con- 
sciousness after  preparations  for  the  funeral  had  been 
made,  has  repeatedly  alluded  to  the  subject  in  his  paper, 
and  published  preventive  suggestions  at  various  times, 
including  one  from  a  physician,  who,  having  been  called 
to  a  man  who  had  been  dead  twenty-four  hours,  lighted 
a  match  and  applied  it  to  the  end  of  one  of  the  fingers 
of  the  corpse,  when  a  blister  was  formed,  and,  restoratives 
being  applied,  the  man  recovered.  The  physician  adds 
the  following  conclusion:  "If  you  are  alive  you  cannot 
burn  your  hand  without  raising  a  blister;  if  you  were 
dead,  and  flames  should  come  in  contact  with  any  part 
of  your  body,  no  blister  would  appear,  and  the  flesh 
would  be  burned." 

A  similar  idea  was  promulgated  in  a  letter  to  the 
British  Medical  Journal,  January  18,  1896,  under  the 
title  of  "  Living  or  Dead,"  by  J.  Milford  Barnett,  M.D. 
Edin.,  of  Belfast:— 


"Burial  alive,  though  of  exceedingly  rare  occurrence,  sometimes 
does  happen,  and  calls  for  increased  attention  to  the  means  of 
detecting  with  certainty  the  presence  of  vitality,  however  feeble. 
The  ordinary  means  of  deciding  the  vital  question  are  known  to 
all  persons.  Auscultation  may  detect  the  enfeebled  heart-beat, 
while  the  electric  battery  can  elicit  any  existing  muscular  con- 
tractility. Conditions  of  trance  are  occasionally  almost  mystical 
in  their  profundity  (Brahmin  trance),  and  a  simple  and  ready- 
to-hand  test  to  decide  whether  death  has  occurred  is  of  prime 
importance.  We  can  ascertain  whether  or  not  life  still  lingers 
in  uncertain  cases  by  applying  (say)  to  the  back  of  the  forearm 
a  small  stream  of  boiling  water  directly  from  the  kettle.  If  life 
is  present,  the  boiling  water  will  soon  and  unfailingly  raise  a 
blister  where  applied,  and  the  blister  will  contain  fluid,  the  serum 
of  the  blood.  The  production  of  the  serum  blister  being  essen- 
tially a  vital  process,  its  production  or  non-production  becomes 
an  infallible  test,  and  determines  the  question.  This  test,  not 
generally  known,  should  be  widely  proclaimed." 

It  is  a  fact,  however,  that  life  may  be  so  torpid  and 
inactive  as  to  be  unable  to  respond  to  the  irritation 
of  heat  or  blisters,  or  even  to  the  application  of  red- 
hot  irons.  Upon  the  other  hand,  trustworthy  authori- 
ties have  declared  that  the  phenomenon  of  a  serum 
blister  is  not  limited  to  life ;  a  burn  may  raise  a 
blister  in  a  dead  body  soon  after  actual  death,  but 
there  will  most  probably  be  an  absence  of  areola — 
i.e.,  a  red  inflammatory  ring.  The  blister  test  is  one 
which  has  so  repeatedly  failed  that  it  cannot  be  relied 


The  stethoscope,  which  is  regarded  by  many  medi- 
cal practitioners  as  an  infallible  means  of  preventing 
premature  burial,  has  proved  a  broken  reed  in  hundreds 
of  cases,  and  can  be  of  use  only  when  applied  with 


other  tests.  (See  pp.  223-4.)  Dr.  Roger  S.  Chew,  of 
Calcutta,  writes  to  me,  February,  1896: — 

"The  British  Medical  Journal,  September  28,  1895, 
tells  us  that  the  careful  use  of  the  stethescope  will 
enable  a  medical  man  to  distinguish  a  living  from  a 
dead  body.  Auscultation  may  give  startling  results, 
and  the  body  yet  be  absolutely  dead.  I  recollect  an 
instance  of  death  from  cobra-bite,  when,  though  decom- 
position had  set  in,  the  relatives  refused  to  believe  she 
was  dead,  because  one  of  them  declared  that,  though 
he  did  not  see  her  chest  rise  and  fall,  he  had  distinctly 
heard  her  sigh.  A  medical  man  was  called  in,  applied 
the  stethoscope  over  her  thorax,  and  declared  he  could 
hear  sounds  from  her  lungs,  and  a  peculiar  'sough} 
*  sough '  towards  the  apex  of  the  heart.  So  far  he  was 
right,  but  as  the  girl  had  already  been  dead  some 
fourteen  hours,  and  the  weather  was  warm,  the  sounds 
he  heard  were  those  of  the  escape  of  the  putrefactive 
gases  bubbling  upward,  and  unable  to  find  exit,  as  her 
mouth  was  closed  with  a  chin-bandage,  and  her  nostrils 
plugged  with  mucus.  To  convince  the  parents  that  the 
girl  was  really  dead,  I  offered  to  perform  artificial  respira- 
tion, to  which  end  I  untied  the  bandage,  prized  open 
her  jaws,  and  pressed  heavily  on  her  thorax,  when  some 
of  the  imprisoned  gases  escaped,  emitting  an  abomin- 
able odour  that  brought  conviction  of  the  girl  being 
beyond  all  hope. 

"  In  another  case,  that  of  my  son,  aged  two  years, 
after  a  series  of  brain  symptoms  and  severe  clonic 
convulsions  preceding  an  outbreak  of  confluent  small- 
pox, the  stethoscope  told  me,  and  a  medical  friend 
who  was  present,  that  my  little  boy  had  ceased  to 


exist ;  but  a  liberal  application  of  ice  to  his  head  and 
cardiac  region,  together  with  violent  friction  and 
artificial  respiration  vigorously  employed  for  forty 
minutes,  restored  the  child  to  me,  and  I  thanked  God 
that  I  had  refused  to  accept  the  evidence  of  the 
stethoscope  as  final." 


The  application  of  the  electric  current  is  a  powerful 
restorative  agent  in  cases  of  suspended  animation,  if 
judiciously  applied.  When  Ruben  Korff  invented  his 
coil  it  was  urged  by  many  that  a  coil  might  be  kept 
in  every  church  in  order  to  test  each  body  before 
the  funeral  ceremony  was  proceeded  with.  Sir  B.  W. 
Richardson  attached  comparatively  great  importance 
to  this  test,  but  it  must  be  remembered  that  electric 
excitability  will  last  for  some  time  after  death — until 
rigor  mortis  sets  in. 

Struve  in  his  essay,  "  Suspended  Animation,"  p.  151, 
under  the  head  of  "  Apparent  Death  From  a  Fall," 
says  : — "  A  girl,  three  years  of  age,  fell  from  a  window 
two  stories  high  upon  the.  pavement.  Though  she  was 
considered  as  lifeless,  Mr.  Squires,  a  natural  philosopher, 
applied  electricity.  Almost  twenty  minutes  elapsed 
before  the  shocks  produced  any  effect.  At  last,  when 
some  of  the  electric  force  pervaded  the  breast,  he 
observed  a  slight  motion  of  the  heart.  The  child  soon 
after  began  to  breath  and  groan  with  great  difficulty, 
and  after  some  minutes  a  vomiting  ensued.  For  a  few 
days  the  patient  remained  in  a  state  of  stupefaction,  but 
in  the  course  of  a  week  she  was  perfectly  restored  to 


Referring  to  the  subject  of  premature  burial,  Dr.  W. 
S.  Hedley,  writing  to  the  Lancet,  October  5,  1895, 
says : — Forty  years  ago  the  subject  was  investigated 
by  Crimotel,  twenty  years  later  by  Rosenthal,  and  more 
recently  by  Onimus.  It  seems  safe  to  say  that  in  no 
disease,  certainly  in  none  of  those  conditions  usually 
enumerated  as  likely  to  be  mistaken  for  death,  is 
galvanic  and  faradaic  excitability  abolished  in  every 
muscle  of  the  body.  On  the  other  hand,  electro- 
muscular  contractility  disappears  in  all  the  muscles 
within  a  few  hours  after  death  (generally  ninety  minutes 
to  three  hours,  according  to  Rosenthal),  its  persistence 
varying  to  some  extent  with  the  particular  muscle 
examined  (i),  and  with  the  mode  of  death  (2).  There- 
fore, if  electro-muscular  contractility  be  present  in  any 
muscle,  it  means  life  or  death  only  a  few  hours  before. 
It  is  clear  that  no  interment  or  post-mortem  examination 
ought  to  take  place  so  long  as  there  is  any  flicker. of 
electric  excitability.  To  me  it  seems  almost  equally 
obvious  that  in  all  doubtful  cases,  sometimes  in  sudden 
death,  and  often  to  allay  the  anxiety  of  friends,  this 
test  ought  to  be  applied,  and  applied  by  one  who  is 
accustomed  to  handle  electric  currents  for  purposes  of 

The  apparatus  for  applying  electrical  currents,  long 
used  by  the  Humane  Society  for  restoration  of  the 
drowned,  •  might  with  advantage  be  kept  at  public 
mortuaries,  for  use  in  cases  of  apparent  death  due  to 
other  causes,  where  decomposition  has  not  manifested 
itself.  The  Weather  Bureau  at  Washington  advises 
those  who  are  in  the  neighbourhood  of  persons  struck 
by  lightning  to  make  immediate  efforts  to  restore 


consciousness,  because  the  effect  of  lightning  is  to 
suspend  animation  rather  than  to  produce  death. 
Respiration  and  circulation  should  be  stimulated,  and 
the  usual  remedies  for  relief  in  such  cases  should  be 
administered  for  at  least  an  hour  before  giving  up 
the  victim  as  dead. 

Dr.  Moore  Russell  Fletcher  says  : — "  When  persons 
without  pulse  or  breathing  are  found  in  bed,  in  the 
field,  or  elsewhere,  treat  them  in  such  manner  as  will 
restore  from  stroke  of  lightning,  paralysis,  or  suspended 
animation  from  catalepsy,  trance,  or  somnambulism,  and 
continue  the  treatment  until  resuscitation  rewards  the 
exertions,  or  decomposition  is  evident." — "  Suspended 
Animation,"  pp.  7,  8. 


Mr.  E.  E.  Carpmael,  of  the  Medical  Department, 
Berkeley  University,  U  S.A.,  recommends,  in  the 
Morning  Post,  London,  September  19,  1895,  the  injec- 
tion of  strychnine  in  "  a  supposed  corpse " ;  while 
"  Medicus,"  in  the  Daily  Chronicle,  September  17,  1895, 
considers  that  post-mortems  "  would  be  to  the  advan- 
tage of  the  patient,  to  his  relations,  to  science,  and 
the  community  at  large."  No  doubt  either  of  these 
plans  would  prevent  live  sepulture,  by  killing  the 
cataleptic  subject ;  while  "  M.R.C.S.,"  in  Morning  Post, 
September  20,  says  : — "  Obviously  the  simplest  and 
best  proof  of  death  is  putrefaction — shown  chiefly  by 
the  discolouration  of  the  abdomen." 

A  correspondent  in  the  English  Mechanic,  October 
2 5)  ^95)  savs  : — "  I  have  long  advised  hypodermic 
injection  of  morphia  before  placing  in  coffin  for 


burial.  Ex  Jiypothesi,  the  vital  spark  is  not  supposed 
to  have  expired,  and  the  circulatory  system  not  finally 
stopped.  Hence  the  hypodermic  injection  cannot  be 

Dr.  Donnellan  reports  a  case  of  the  passage  of  a 
current  of  one  thousand  volts  through  a  man,  which 
instantly  caused  coma,  dilated  pupils,  pallor  of  the 
face,  and  sweating  ;  delirium  and  tonic,  alternating 
\vith  clonic,  spasms  followed.  The  pulse  was  eighty. 
The  respiration,  at  first  stertorous,  passed  into  the 
Cheyne- Stokes  type.  After  the  injection,  first  of 
morphia,  and  then  of  strychnia,  the  patient  fell  into 
a  deep  sleep,  from  which  he  awoke  convalescent. — 
"  Centralblatt  fur  die  medicinischen  Wissenschaften." 


The  most  remarkable  of  the  hypodermic  injections  is 
that  of  Dr.  S.  Icard  of  Marseilles,  who  claims  to  have 
discovered  an  infallible  test  for  distinguishing  between 
persons  actually  or  only  apparently  dead.  It  has 
received  the  honour  of  recognition  on  two  occasions 
by  the  Institute  of  France  (Academic  des  Sciences). 

The  fluid  he  uses  consists  of  a  weak  solution  of 
Fluorescine,  to  which  he  has  given  the  name  of  Kar- 
minine.  This,  when  sufficiently  diluted,  ceases  to  be 
poisonous.  If  this  solution,  it  is  alleged,  be  injected 
under  the  skin  of  a  living  person,  in  two  minutes  the 
skin,  especially  the  mucous  membrane,  is  strongly 
coloured,  and  the  body  has  the  appearance  of  suffering 
from  an  attack  of  acute  jaundice.  The  whole  of  the 
eyes  is  said  to  assume  a  clear  green  tinge,  the  pupil 
almost  disappears,  and  the  eye  looks  as  if  it  were  a 


brilliant  emerald  set  in  the  face.  In  two  hours  all 
the  phenomena  disappear.  But  in  the  case  of  a  dead 
man  the  solution  produces  no  effect. 


A  medical  correspondent,  writing  from  Dresden, 
August  1 8,  1895,  sends  the  following  communication 
concerning  the  value  of  artificial  respiration  : — 

"  Major  J.   H.   Patzki,   Surgeon,   U.S.   Army,  reports 
that  in   1882,  at  St.  Augustine,  Florida,  a  lady  patient 
of  his  had   an   attack   of  tetanus,  caused  by  a  scratch 
upon  her  foot  by  a  nail  while  bathing.     The  convulsive 
symptoms  commenced  in  the  muscles  of  the  face,  and 
increased    in   violence  in   spite   of  energetic  treatment, 
until    the    fifth     day,    when    the    respiratory    muscles 
became  involved.      The  breathing  was  completely  sus- 
pended  by  the  spasmodic   action,  and   the   radial   and 
carotid    pulse    ceased.      The    cardiac    sounds    became 
utterly   inaudible   to   careful    stethoscopic   examination 
repeatedly    employed.       The    lady    assumed    all     the 
appearances  of  death,  and  there  was  rigor  mortis,  the 
result    of   muscular    spasm.    Artificial    respiration    was 
resorted    to,    but    not    until    after    the    expiration    of 
eighteen  minutes  did   the  first  faint  efforts  of  respira- 
tion, and    a   feeble   action    of  the   heart,   become    per- 
ceptible.    Artificial    respiration    was   continued    for   an 
hour  afterwards,  and  the  life  of  the  patient  was  saved, 
although  the  muscular  spasms  continued  to  some  extent 
for  six  days. 

"This   case   is   instructive   in    showing  that   tetanus, 
when   it  involves   the   chest,  may  produce   a   state   of 

apparent    death,    by    interfering    with    the    respiratory 


and  cardiac  functions  ;  and  that  artificial  respiration, 
if  persistently  employed,  may  rescue  patients  so  affected 
from  the  perils  of  apparent  death." 


The  following  extracts  from  an  instructive  but  ap- 
parently forgotten  article  in  Dickens'  "  All  the  Year 
Round,"  July,  1869  (  a  propos  of  a  pamphlet,  "  Lettre 
sur  la  Mort  Apparente,  les  Consequences  Reelles  des 
Inhumations  Precipitees,  et  le  Temps  pendant  lequel 
peut  persister  1'Aptitude  a  etre  rappelle  a  la  Vie,"  by 
the  late  regretted  Dr.  Charles  Londe),  afford  valuable 
suggestions  : — 

"Suffocation  by  foul  air  and  mephitical  gas  is  not  a  rare  form 
of  death  in  the  United  Kingdom.  It  is  possible  that  suspended 
animation  may  now  and  then  have  been  mistaken  for  the  absolute 
extinction  of  life.  Dr.  Londe  gives  an  instructive  case  to  the 
purpose.  At  the  extremity  of  a  large  grocer's  shop,  a  close, 
narrow  corner,  or  rather  hole,  was  the  sleeping-place  of  the  shop- 
man who  managed  the  night  sale  till  the  shop  was  closed,  and 
who  opened  the  shutters  at  four  in  the  morning.  On  the  i6th 
of  January,  1825,  there  were  loud  knocks  at  the  grocer's  door.  As 
nobody  stirred  to  open  it,  the  grocer  rose  himself,  grumbling  at 
the  shopman's  laziness,  and,  proceeding  to  his  sleeping-hole  to 
scold  him,  he  found  him  motionless  in  bed,  completely  deprived 
of  consciousness.  Terror-struck  by  the  idea  of  sudden  death,  he 
immediately  sent  in  search  of  a  doctor,  who  suspected  a  case  of 
asphyxia  by  mephitism.  His  suspicions  were  confirmed  by  the 
sight  of  a  night-lamp,  which  had  gone  out,  although  supplied  with 
oil  and  wick,  and  by  a  portable  stove  containing  the  remains  of 
charcoal  partly  reduced  to  ashes.  In  spite  of  a  severe  frost,  he 
immediately  had  the  patient  taken  into  the  open  air,  and  kept  on 
a  chair  in  a  position  as  nearly  vertical  as  possible.  The  limbs  of 
the  sufferer  hung  loose  and  drooping,  the  pupils  were  motionless, 
with  no  trace  either  of  breathing  or  pulsation  of  the  heart  or 


arteries ;  in  short,  there  were  all  the  signs  of  death.  The  most 
approved  modes  of  restoring  animation  were  persisted  in  for  a 
long  while  without  success.  At  last,  about  three  in  the  afternoon 
— that  is,  after  eleven  hours'  continued  exertion — a  slight  move- 
ment was  heard  in  the  region  of  the  heart.  A  few  hours  after- 
wards the  patient  opened  his  eyes,  regained  consciousness,  and 
was  able  to  converse  with  the  spectators  attracted  by  his  resurrec- 
tion. Dr.  Londe  draws  the  same  conclusions  as  before — namely, 
that  persons  suffocated  by  mephitism  are  not  unfrequently  buried 
•when  they  might  be  saved." 

"We  have  had  cholera  in  Great  Britain,  and  we  may  have  it 
again.  At  such  trying  times,  if  ever,  hurried  interments  are  not 
merely  excusable,  but  almost  unavoidable.  Nevertheless,  one  of 
the  peculiarities  of  that  fearful  disease  is  to  bring  on  some  of  the 
•symptoms  of  death — the  prostration,  the  coldness,  and  the  dull 
livid  hues — long  before  life  has  taken  its  departure.  Now,  Dr. 
Londe  states,  as  an  acknowledged  fact,  that  patients  pronounced 
dead  of  cholera  have  been  repeatedly  seen  to  move  one  or  more 
of  their  limbs  after  death.  While  M.  Trachez  (who  had  been  sent 
to  Poland  to  study  the  cholera)  was  opening  a  subject  in  the 
dead-house  of  the  Bagatelle  Hospital,  in  Warsaw,  he  saw  another 
body  (that  of  a  woman  of  fifty,  who  had  died  in  two  days,  having 
her  eyes  still  bright,  her  joints  supple,  but  the  whole  surface 
extremely  cold),  which  vividly  moved  its  left  foot  ten  or  twelve 
times  in  the  course  of  an  hour.  Afterwards  the  right  foot  parti- 
cipated in  the  same  movement,  but  very  feebly.  M.  Trachez  sent 
for  Mr.  Searle,  an  English  surgeon,  to  direct  his  attention  to  the 
phenomenon.  Mr.  Searle  had  often  remarked  it.  The  woman, 
nevertheless,  was  left  in  the  dissecting-room,  and  thence  taken  to 
the  cemetery.  Several  other  medical  men  stated  that  they  had 
made  similar  observations.  From  which  M.  Trachez  draws  the 
inference :  '  It  is  allowable  to  think  that  many  cholera  patients 
have  been  buried  alive.'  " 

"  Dr.  Veyrat,  attached  to  the  Bath  Establishment,  Aix,  Savoy, 
was  sent  for  to  La  Roche  (Department  of  the  Yonne),  to  visit  a 
cholera  patient,  Therese  X.,  who  had  lost  all  the  members  of  her 
family  by  the  same  disease.  He  found  her  in  a  complete  state  of 
asphyxia.  He  opened  a  vein;  not  a  drop  of  blood  flowed.  He 


applied  leeches;  they  bit,  and  immediately  loosed  their  hold.  He 
covered  the  body  with  stimulant  applications,  and  went  to  take  a 
little  rest,  requesting  to  be  called  if  the  patient  manifested  any 
signs  of  life.  The  night  and  next  day  passed  without  any  change. 
While  making  preparations  for  the  burial,  they  noticed  a  little 
blood  oozing  out  of  the  leech-bites.  Dr.  Veyrat,  informed  of  the 
circumstance,  entered  the  chamber  just  as  the  nurse  was  about  to 
wrap  the  corpse  in  its  winding-sheet.  Suddenly  a  rattling  noise 
issued  from  Therese's  chest.  She  opened  her  eyes,  and  in  a 
hollow  voice  said  to  the  nurse :  '  What  are  you  doing  here  ?  I 
am  not  dead.  Get  away  with  you.'  She  recovered,  and  felt  no 
other  inconvenience  than  a  deafness,  which  lasted  about  two 

"The  attention  of  the  French  Government  has  been  once 
more  directed  to  the  subject.  The  petitioners  have  requested, 
as  a  precaution,  that  all  burials  for  the  future  should,  in 
the  first  instance,  be  only  provisional.  Before  filling  a  grave, 
a  communication  .is  to  be  made  between  the  coffin  and  the 
upper  atmosphere  by  means  of  a  respiratory  tube  ;  and  the 
grave  is  not  to  be  finally  closed  until  all  hope  of  life  is 
abandoned.  These  precautions,  it  will  be  seen  at  once,  how- 
ever good  in  theory,  are  scarcely  practicable.  Others  have 
demanded  the  general  establishment  of  mortuary  chambers, 
or  dead-houses,  like  those  in  Germany.  And  not  only  the  peti- 
tioners, but  several  senators,  seem  to  consider  that  measure 
the  full  solution  of  the  problem.  Article  77  of  the  Civil  Code 
prescribes  a  delay  of  twenty-four  hours  only,  which  appears  to 
them  to  be  insufficient,  since,  they  urge,  it  presumes  the  certainty 
hat  death  has  taken  place  only  after  putrefactive  decomposition 
has  set  in.  Now,  a  much  longer  time  than  twenty-four  hours 
may  elapse  before  that  decomposition  manifests  itself.  Deposit, 
therefore,  your  dead  in  a  mortuary  chapel,  until  you  are  perfectly 
sure,  from  the  evidence  of  your  senses,  that  life  is  utterly  and 
hopelessly  extinct. 

"  Although  the  French  Government  is  anxious  to  enforce 
throughout  the  whole  empire  the  rules  carried  out  in  Paris,  it  is 
to  be  feared  that  great  difficulties  lie  in  the  way.  The  verifica- 
tion of  deaths  on  so  enormous  a  scale,  with  strict  minuteness,. 


is  almost  impracticable.  But  even  if  it  were  not,  many  timid 
persons  would  say  :  '  Who  is  to  assure  us  of  the  correctness  of 
the  doctor's  observations  ?  Unfortunately,  too  many  terrible 
examples  of  their  fallibility  are  on  record.  The  professional 
man  is  pressed  for  time.  He  pays  a  passing  visit  ;  gives  a 
hurried  glance  ;  and  a  fatal  mistake  is  so  easily  made  ! '  Public 
opinion  will  not  be  reassured  until  you  can  show,  every  time  a 
death  occurs,  an  irrefutable  demonstration  that  life  has  departed. 

"  M.  de  Parville  now  announces  the  possibility  of  this  great 
desideratum.  He  professes  to  place  in  anyone's  hands  a  self- 
acting  apparatus,  which  would  declare  not  only  whether  the  death 
be  real,  but  would  leave  in  the  hands  of  the  experimenter  a  written 
proof  of  the  reality  of  the  death.  The  scheme  is  this  :  It  is  well 
known  that  atropine — the  active  principle  of  belladonna — possesses 
the  property  of  considerably  dilating  the  pupil  of  the  eye. 
Oculists  constantly  make  use  of  it  when  they  want  to  perform 
an  operation,  or  to  examine  the  interior  of  the  eye.  Now,  M.  le 
Docteur  Bouchut  has  shown  that  atropine  has  no  action  on  the 
pupil  when  death  is  real.  In  a  state  of  lethargy,  the  pupil,  under 
the  influence  of  a  few  drops  of  atropine,  dilates  in  the  course 
of  a  few  minutes  ;  the  dilatation  also  takes  place  a  few  instants 
after  death  ;  but  it  ceases  absolutely  in  a  quarter  of  an  hour,  or 
half  an  hour  at  the  very  longest  ;  consequently  the  enlargement 
of  the  pupil  is  a  certain  sign  that  death  is  only  apparent. 

"This  premised,  imagine  a  little  camera  obscura,  scarcely  so 
big  as  an  opera-glass,  containing  a  slip  of  photographic  paper, 
which  is  kept  unrolling  for  five-and-twenty  or  thirty  minutes  by 
means  of  clockwork.  The  apparatus,  placed  a  short  distance  in 
front  of  the  dead  person's  eye,  will  depict  on  the  paper  the 
pupil  of  the  eye,  which  will  have  been  previously  moistened 
with  a  few  drops  of  atropine.  It  is  evident  that,  as  the  paper 
slides  before  the  eye  of  the  corpse,  if  the  pupil  dilate,  its 
photographic  image  will  be  dilated ;  if,  on  the  contrary,  it 
remains  unchanged,  the  image  will  retain  its  original  size.  An 
inspection  of  the  paper  then  enables  the  experimenter  to  read 
upon  it  whether  the  death  is  real  or  apparent  only.  This  sort 
of  declaration  can  be  handed  to  the  civil  officer,  who  will  give 
a  permit  to  bury  in  return. 



"By  this  simple  method  a  hasty  or  careless  certificate  of  death 
becomes  impossible.  The  instrument  applies  the  test,  and  counts 
the  minutes.  The  doctor  and  the  civil  officer  are  relieved  from 
further  responsibility.  The  paper  gives  evidence  that  the  verifi- 
cation has  actually  and  carefully  been  made  ;  for,  suppose  that 
half  an  hour  is  required  to  produce  a  test  that  can  be  relied 
on,  the  length  of  the  strip  of  paper  unrolled  marks  the  time 
during  which  the  experiment  has  been  continued.  An  apparatus 
of  the  kind  might  be  placed  in  the  hands  of  the  minister  or 
one  of  the  notables  of  every  parish.  Such  a  system  would 
silence  the  apprehensions  of  the  most  timid  ;  fears,  natural 
enough,  would  disappear,  and  the  world  would  be  shocked  by 
no  fresh  cases  of  premature  burial." 

The  authors  have  not  heard  whether  this  ingenious 
contrivance  had  been  put  into  practice,  or  with  what 


Various  prizes  have  been  offered,  and  awards  made, 
by  scientific  and  medical  societies,  but,  with  two  excep- 
tions, the  so-called  proofs  of  death  for  which  the 
awards  have  been  given  are  deemed  unsatisfactory. 
The  most  notable  of  the  prizes  is  that  of  the  Marquis 
d'Ourches,  who  by  his  will  bequeathed  the  sum  of 
twenty  thousand  francs  to  be  given  to  the  author  of 
the  discovery  of  a  simple  and  common  means  of 
recognising  beyond  doubt  the  absolute  signs  of  death, 
by  such  a  test  as  could  be  adopted  by  poor  villagers 
without  technical  instruction.  The  Marquis  d'Ourches 
left  also  a  prize  of  five  thousand  francs  for  a  similar 
discovery,  but  requiring  the  intervention  of  an  expert. 
M.  Pierre  Manni,  Professor  at  the  University  of  Rome, 
offered  a  prize,  which  was  awarded  to  Dr.  E.  Bouchut, 
in  1846.  And  M.  Dusgate,  by  will,  dated  January  11, 


1872,  bequeathed  to  the  French  Academy  of  Sciences 
a  sufficient  sum  in  French  Rentes,  to  found  a  quin- 
quennial prize  of  two  thousand  five  hundred  francs 
to  the  author  of  the  best  work  on  the  diagnostic  signs 
of  death,  and  the  means  of  preventing  premature 
interments.  A  decree  of  November  27,  1874,  authorised 
the  Academy  to  accept  this  legacy. 

The  British  Medical  Journal,  January  21,  1893,  p.  145, 
reports,  through  its  Paris  correspondent,  the  first  award. 
"  The  Academic  des  Sciences  proposed  as  the  subject 
for  the  Dusgate  Prize  for  1890,  'The  Signs  of  Death, 
and  the  Means  of  Preventing  Premature  Burial.'  The 
prize  has  been  awarded  to  Dr.  Maze,  who  considers 
that  putrefaction  is  the  only  certain  sign.  He  urges 
that  the  deaths  should  be  certified  by  medical  men  on 
oath ;  also  that  in  every  cemetery  there  should  be  a 
mortuary  where  dead  bodies  can  be  deposited,  and 
that  burial  should  take  place  only  when  putrefactive 
changes  set  in.  Cremation  should  be  adopted." 

The  second  prize  of  1895  and  the  third  prize  of  1900 
have  been  awarded  to  Dr.  Icard  for  his  discovery, 
mentioned  on  page  312. 




I  HAVE  thought  it  advisable  to  devote  a  special  chapter 
to  the  consideration  of  Count  Karnice-Karnicki's  in- 
genious invention,  which  has  attracted  so  much  attention 
on  the  Continent  that  many  thousands  of  persons  in 
France  have  left  instructions  in  their  wills  for  this 
scheme  to  be  adopted  at  their  interment,  and  a  society 
is  already  formed  in  the  United  States  for  furthering 
the  use  of  the  system. 

The  Count  is  a  Russian  nobleman,  the  Chamberlain 
to  the  Czar  and  Doctor  of  the  Law  Faculty  of  the 
University  of  Louvain.  He  was  first  aroused  to  the 
horror  of  premature  burial  when  attending  the  funeral 
of  a  young  Belgian  girl,  who  was  awakened  out  of 
her  lethargy  by  the  first  shovelfuls  of  earth  thrown 
upon  her  coffin  after  being  lowered  into  the  grave, 
and  her  piteous  screams  have  haunted  him  ever  since. 

For  the  prevention  of  such  tragic  occurrences,  he 
set  himself  the  task  of  providing  some  simple  means 
which  would  be  within  the  reach  of  rich  and  poor 
alike.  The  granting  of  a  certificate,  he  felt,  gave 
no  security  ;  waiting  mortuaries  were  not  likely  to  be 
provided,  except  in  large  towns ;  and,  unless  the  law 
of  the  country  permitted  a  body  to  remain  under 
observation  until  putrefaction  set  in,  there  was  no 
actual  safeguard  against  premature  burial. 




Broadly  speaking,  it  consists  of  a  long  tube,  about 
three  and  a  half  inches  diameter,  and  a  hermetically- 
sealed  box.  The  tube  is  fixed  into  an  aperture  in  the 
coffin  as  soon  as  the  latter  is  lowered  into  the  grave. 



Xo  gases  can  escape  from  the  tomb  into  the  outer  air, 
as  the  metallic  box  into  which  the  upper  end  of  the 
tube  enters  cannot  be  opened  from  the  outside. 

On  the  chest  of  the  supposed  dead  body  is  placed 
a  glass  ball,  several  inches  in  diameter,  attached  to 
a  spring  which  communicates  through  the  tube  with 
an  iron  box  above  ground. 

On  the  slightest  movement  of  the  chest  wall,  as  in  the 
act  of  marked  breathing,  or  movement  of  the  body,  the 
glass  ball  releases  a  spring  which  causes  the  lid  of  the 
iron  box  to  fly  open  immediately,  thus  admitting  both 
air  and  light  to  the  coffin.  At  the  same  time  a  flag 
rises  perpendicularly  about  four  feet  above  the  ground, 
and  a  bell  is  set  ringing  which  continues  for  about 
half  an  hour.  In  front  of  the  box,  an  electric  lamp 
burns  which  gives  light  after  sunset  to  the  coffin  below. 
The  tube  acts  also  as  a  speaking  tube,  and  the  voice  of 
the  inmate  of  the  coffin,  however  feeble,  is  intensified. 

The  working  ability  of  the  apparatus  has  been  tested 
by  its  application  to  individuals  who  volunteered  to  be 
coffined,  and  who  found  that  the  mere  act  of  breathing 
was  sufficient  to  produce  all  the  phenomena  mentioned 

The  price  of  the  complete  apparatus  is  exceedingly 
reasonable,  only  about  twelve  shillings  ;  and  it  is  sug- 
gested, in  order  that  the  very  poorest  may  have  the 
advantage  of  this  simple  safeguard,  that  authorities 
should  keep  a  supply  for  hiring  out,  and  putting  to 
each  coffin  for  at  least  a  fortnight. 

It  is  to  be  hoped  that  the  burial  and  sanitary 
authorities  in  the  United  Kingdom  will  at  least  enquire 
into  the  merits  of  this  unique  invention. 



AMONGST  the  numerous  suggestions  made  by  corre- 
spondents in  the  press  with  a  view  of  preventing  live 
sepulture,  none  has  been  more  frequently  put  forward 
than  that  of  cremation.  Sir  Henry  Thompson,  the 
president  of  the  Cremation  Society  of  England,  in 
the  second  edition  of  his  admirable  volume,  "  Modern 
Cremation:  Its  History  and  Practice,"  p.  41,  observes:— 
"  There  is  a  source  of  very  painful  dread — as  I  have 
reason  to  know — little  talked  of,  it  is  true,  but  keenly 
felt  by  many  persons  at  some  time  or  another,  the 
horror  of  which  to  some  is  inexpressible.  It  is  the 
dread  of  a  premature  burial — the  fear  lest  some  deep 
trance  should  be  mistaken  for  death,  and  that  the 
awakening  should  take  place  too  late.  Happily  such 
occurrences  must  be  exceedingly  rare,  especially  in  this 
country,  where  the  interval  between  death  and  burial 
is  considerable,  and  the  fear  is  almost  a  groundless 
one.  Still,  the  conviction  that  such  a  fate  is  possible 
—which  cannot  be  altogether  denied — will  always  be 
a  source  of  severe  trial  to  some.  With  cremation  no 
such  catastrophe  could  ever  occur;  and  the  complete- 
ness of  a  properly  conducted  process  would  render 
death  instantaneous  and  painless,  if  by  any  unhappy 
chance  an  individual  so  circumstanced  were  submitted 


to  it.  But  the  guarantee  against  this  danger  would 
be  doubled,  since  inspection  of  the  entire  body  must 
of  necessity  immediately  precede  the  act  of  cremation, 
no  such  inspection  being  possible  under  the  present 



While  agreeing  with  this  distinguished  authority  as 
to  the  advantages  of  cremation  from  the  sanitary  and 
aesthetic  point  of  view,  which  he  dwells  upon  in  the 
treatise  referred  to,  and  admitting  that  a  certain 
amount  of  protection  against  live  burial  is  obtainable 
by  means  of  the  dual  medical  inspection,  we  cannot 
agree  that  this  protection  is  absolute.  Cases  of  trance 
are  on  record  where  some  half-a-dozen  doctors,  after 
careful  examinations,  have  pronounced  a  cataleptic 
patient  to  be  dead,  and  the  patient,  in  defiance  of 
their  united  opinion,  has  recovered  consciousness,  and 
been  restored  to  health.  In  the  terrible  death  of 
Signor  Castaldi,  an  Italian  stationmaster,  from  suffoca- 
tion in  a  coffin,  it  was  reported  in  the  press  that  the 
medical  witnesses  swore  at  the  inquest,  previous  to  his 
removal  to  the  cemetery  mortuary,  where  his  agonising 
struggle  for  life  occurred,  that  he  had  died  from  heart 
disease,  and  it  was  only  after  the  tragedy  had  happened 
the  doctors  discovered  that  the  unfortunate  man,  whom 
they  had  pronounced  dead,  was  in  a  state  of  catalepsy. 

Dr.  Franz  Hartmann,  in  his  "  Premature  Burial," 
quotes  the  two  following  cases  amongst  many  others: — 

"  Madame  de  P ,  aged  eighteen  years,  and  subject 

to  hysteria,  apparently  died,  and  for  forty  hours  she 
presented  all  the  signs  of  real  death.  All  possible 
means  of  restoring  her  to  life  were  taken,  but  proved 


of  no  avail.  Five  physicians  of  Lyons  were  called  in, 
and  they  finally  agreed,  positively,  that  the  lady  was 
really  dead.  The  funeral  preparations  were  made  ; 
but  owing  to  the  supplications  of  a  sister  of  the 
deceased  the  burial  was  delayed,  when  after  a  while 
the  patient  recovered.  She  said  that  she  had  been 
all  the  time  aware  of  all  that  was  going  on,  without 
being  able  to  give  a  sign,  and  without  even  being 
desirous  of  attempting  it."  (F.  Kempner,  p.  38.) 

"In  1842  a  remarkable  affair  occupied  the  attention 
of  the  court  at  the  city  of  Nantes.  A  man  apparently 
died,  and  his  death  was  certified  to  both  by  the 
attending  physicians  and  the  medical  inspector ;  he  was 
put  into  a  coffin,  and  the  religious  ceremonies  were 
performed  in  good  style.  At  the  end  of  the  funeral 
service,  and  as  he  was  about  to  be  buried,  he  awoke 
from  his  trance.  The  clergy  and  the  undertakers  sent 
in  their  accounts  for  the  funeral  expenses  ;  but  he 
refused  to  pay  them,  giving  as  his  reason  that  he  had 
not  ordered  them  ;  whereupon  he  was  sued  for  the 
money."  (F.  Kempner,  p.  39.) 


Neither  can  we  share  the  optimistic  views  of  Sir 
Henry  Thompson  as  to  the  rarity  of  premature  inter- 
ment. The  results  of  searching  and  independent 
inquiries  and  study  in  various  countries  by  each  of  the 
authors  of  this  treatise  all  point  the  other  way,  and 
the  various  authorities,  whose  names  and  opinions  are 
cited  elsewhere  in  this  volume,  confess  their  astonish- 
ment at  the  number  of  cases  brought  to  light  during 
their  investigations.  The  Rev.  H.  R.  Haweis  also,  in 


his  work,  "  Ashes  to  Ashes  :  A  Cremation  Prelude " 
(London,  1895,  now  out  of  print),  advocates  cremation 
on  the  ground  of  preventing  living  burial,  and  quotes 
several  cases  of  persons  buried  while  in  a  state  of 
trance.  During  a  discussion  on  the  merits  and 
demerits  of  cremation  in  the  Birmingham  Gazette, 
September  17,  1895,  Lieutenant-General  Phelps,  an 
able  and  judicious  observer,  advocated  cremation  for 
similar  reasons,  and  said  that  "the  use  of  a  crema- 
torium would  entirely  prevent  that  ghastly  accident, 
the  burial  of  the  living.  There  is  no  room  to  doubt 
that  this  frightful  catastrophe  is  of  continual  occur- 
rence. The  phenomena  of  trance  are  little  understood, 
and  a  certificate  of  death  is  held  by  most  of  us  to 
justify  the  burial  of  the  '  corpse,'  dead  or  alive.  Those 
of  us  who  object  to  the  risk  of  being  buried  alive 
should  do  all  in  our  power  to  promote  the  success  of 
this  sanitary  contrivance  for  disposing  of  our  dead." 

The  writer  of  the  following  communication,  which 
appeared  in  the  Sunday  Times,  September  6,  1896, 
has  substantial  reasons  for  preferring  cremation  to  the 
risks  of  burial  : — 

"  Madam, — When  I  was  about  five  years  old,  my  paternal 
home  was  one  day  plunged  into  a  state  of  great  consternation, 
through  the  sudden  apparent  death  of  my  father,  who  had  been 
sitting  up  during  a  part  of  the  previous  night,  occupied  with  some 
literary  work,  without  a  fire  (it  was  in  January),  which  brought  on 
a  death-like  numbness,  in  which  he  was  found  the  next  morning. 
The  family  doctor,  who  was  sent  for  at  once,  declared  life  to  be 
extinct,  but  said  he  could  not  tell  the  cause  of  death  until  after 
the  opening  of  the  dead  body.  My  mother,  however,  who  did 
not  see  any  reason  why  a  young  man  of  thirty-six  should  have 


died  without  any  previous  illness,  caused  the  body  of  my  father 
to  be  rubbed  for  about  two  hours,  which  renewed  its  circulation, 
and   brought  it  to   life  again.     My  father  lived   thirty-two  years 
after  that  memorable  day.    Without  the  prudence  of  my  mother, 
he    would    either   have    been    dissected    or   buried    alive.     About 
twenty   years   after   that   occurrence,    I    visited    the    cemetery   of 
Pere    La    Chaise   (Paris),  accompanied   by  some  friends.     While 
inspecting  the  monuments  of  some  musical  celebrities  we  heard 
a  noise  from  another  part  of  the  cemetery,  whereto  we  proceeded 
without  delay.     When  we   had   arrived    there  we  found  a  strong 
body  of  policemen   surrounding  an  open    grave.     But  in  answer 
to  our  inquiring  '  what  had  happened,'  we  were  simply  requested 
to  leave  the   cemetery  at  once,  which,  of  course,  we  had  to  do. 
Neither   the  portier  nor   any  other   person    connected  with    the 
burial-ground   would   give   any  satisfactory  answer  to   our  ques- 
tions.    We   left   puzzled.     But  a  week   after,  a  young    lady,  who 
had  been  of  our  party  the  week  before,  went  again  to  the  Pere 
la    Chaise,    determined    to    penetrate     the     mystery,    in    which 
endeavour  she  succeeded,  partly  through  persuasion  and    partly 
through  the  gift  of  a  twenty-franc  piece  to  a  grave-digger,  who 
then  told  her  the  following  story  : — A  poor  young  man  of  twenty- 
one    years    had    been    buried   on   the  day  of  our    visit.      When 
the   mourners  had  left  the   cemetery,  the  grave-digger  who  was 
occupied  in  filling  up  the  grave  heard  some  noise  coming  from 
below.      He    hastened    to    the    superintendent    of   the    cemetery,, 
imploring   him   to   have   the   coffin   opened,  which,  however,  the 
superintendent    could    not    do    without    the    permission    and    the 
presence  of  the   Commissaire  de  Police  of  that  district.     When 
the   Commissaire  appeared  at  last  with  his  men,  all  was    silent 
in    the   grave.     But  he  had  the   coffin  opened,  nevertheless,  '  to 
appease   the   mind   of  that  poor  grave-digger,'  as  he  mockingly 
said.     But  great  was  the  horror  of  the   Commissaire  de  Police 
and  his  followers  when  the  coffin  was  opened.     The  unfortunate 
young   man  (who  was  now  quite  dead)   had   been  buried  alive, 
recovered  consciousness  in   his  grave,  scratched   his  face,  bitten 
off  the  tips  of  his  fingers,  and   turned  round   in  his  coffin,  until 
suffocation    put    an    end    to    his    sufferings,  which,    if   not    long,. 
must    have    been    terrible.      The    Parisian    newspapers    did    not 

BURIED    ALIVE.  329 

mention  the  case.  They  were  probably  forbidden  by  the  French 
Government  to  do  so.  But  would  it  not  have  been  wiser  to  let 
the  whole  world  know  of  it,  and  thereby  prevent  repetitions  of 
such  dreadful  occurrences?  A  similar  case  of  live  sepulture 
occurred  in  a  village  near  Wiesbaden  some  thirty  years  ago, 
where  a  girl  of  sixteen  was  found  with  the  same  signs  of 
suffocation  in  her  coffin  as  those  of  that  unfortunate  young 
man  in  Paris.  We  are  assured  by  a  German  authority  that 
thousands  of  people  are  buried  alive  every  year.  But  why 
should  this  be  the  case?  If  people  must  be  buried  before  they 
begin  to  show  signs  of  putrefaction  (which  seems  to  be  the 
only  reliable  proof  that  life  is  really  extinct),  why  not  shorten 
their  sufferings,  in  case  of  resuscitation,  by  opening  an  artery 
before  they  are  buried  ?  There  is  still  much  prejudice  against 
the  cremation  of  dead  bodies,  although  two  great  facts  are 
decidedly  in  its  favour— viz.,  the  impossibility  of  recovering 
consciousness  when  once  inserted  in  the  crematory  oven,  and 
the  prevention  of  the  unhealthiness  which  the  slow  process  of 
putrefaction  must  entail. — Yours,  etc., 

"London."  " J.  H.  BONAWITZ." 


Having  regard  to  the  importance  of  the  subject,  the 
author  wrote  to  the  hon.  secretary  of  the  Cremation 
Society  of  England,  and  received  the  following  reply, 
dated  8  New  Cavendish  Street,  London,  W. : — 

"  With  reference  to  your  enquiry  as  to  the  steps 
adopted  to  prevent  a  person  in  a  trance  being  cremated, 
I  may  say  that  this  society  has  not  made  any  special 
provision  in  that  respect.  You  will  notice,  however, 
that,  before  a  cremation  can  be  carried  out,  the  cause 
of  death  must  be  certified  without  the  slightest  shadow 
of  doubt  by  two  duly  qualified  medical  men.  This 
being  so,  I  think  there  is  less  likelihood  of  a  person 


who  is  simply  in  a  trance  being  cremated  than  buried, 
one   doctor's   certificate   being    sufficient    in    the    latter 

"  (Signed)  T.   C.    SWINBURNE-HANHAM." 

Since  the  above  was  written,  Sir  Henry  Thompson 
has  published  the  fourth  edition  of  his  work,  and  in 
pp.  91,  92,  the  following  significant  words  have  been 
added  : — 

"  In  connection  with  this  subject,  it  should  never  be 
forgotten  that  there  is  but  one  really  trustworthy 
proof  that  death  has  occurred  in  any  given  instance, 
viz.,  the  presence  of  a  manifest  sign  of  decomposition. 
That  condition  is  always  ascertainable,  at  all  events  to 
the  professional  eye,  and  it  should  always  be  verified 
before  a  certificate  of  death  is  signed.  Unhappily,  no 
special  attention  to  it  is  demanded  under  the  present 
national  system  of  registration.  In  the  enquiry  invari- 
ably adopted  by  the  Cremation  Society,  the  inspection 
is  enforced,  and  the  answer  must  be  recorded  by  the 
medical  man  who  signs  the  certificate." 

Sir  Henry  then  adds,  in  a  letter  to  the  Sf.  James's 
Gazette  of  6th  December,  1892  : — 

"  It  should  be  remembered  that  the  body  is  sent 
(i.e.,  to  cremation)  not  in  a  coffin,  but  in  a  slight  shell, 
to.  facilitate  the  inspection  above  referred  to. 

"  Were  these  precautions  enforced  by  the  State  in 
every  case  of  death,  whether  for  cremation  or  other- 
wise, there  would  be  no  fear  at  all  in  relation  to  the 

subj'ect  "(Signed)        HENRY  THOMSON, 

"  President  of  the  Cremation 

Society  of  England. 
"35  Wimpole  Street." 


From  this  we  conclude  that  the  Cremation  Society 
now  adopts  the  precaution  of  waiting  until  signs  of 
decomposition  are  apparent  before  committing  a  body 
to  the  flames.  This  is,  indeed,  the  only  certain  way 
by  which  Mr.  Swinburne- Hanham's  assurance  that 
death  is  "certified  without  the  slightest  shadow  of  a 
doubt "  could  be  held  to  be  satisfactory. 


There  can  be  no  question  that  popular  sentiment  is 
opposed  to  cremation  largely  on  the  ground  that  the 
latter  is  associated  with  paganism,  and  that  Christianity 
teaches  reverence  for  the  body.  Hence  cremation  in 
this  country  makes  but  little  progress  comparatively. 

Dealing  with  this  phase  of  the  question,  the  Rev. 
John  Page  Hopps,  in  Light,  July  4,  1896,  says: — "We 
are  told  that  respect  for  the  dead  urges  to  burial  as 
against  cremation,  but  many  are  now  very  keenly  feel- 
ing the  reverse  of  this.  They  can  bring  the  mind  to 
bear  the  liberation  of  the  body  by  one  swift  act  of 
disintegration  and  purifying,  but  cannot  overcome  the 
shrinking  from  subjecting  it  to  the  foul  and  lingering 
processes  of  the  grave — or,  perchance,  to  the  horror  of 
recovering  consciousness  in  the  grave."  Mr.  Hopps 
further  states  one  of  the  strongest  arguments  thus : — 
"  Respect  for  the  living,  too,  is  an  urgent  motive.  The 
highest  authorities  tell  us  that  the  air  we  breathe  and  the 
water  we  drink  are  often  contaminated  by  the  emanations 
of  graves.  It  cannot  be  right  that  London,  for  instance, 
with  all  its  inevitable  impurities,  should  add  to  its  foul- 
nesses that  of  trying  to  live  in  company  with  thousands 
upon  thousands  of  decaying  bodies  in  its  very  midst." 


To  dispose  of  the  dead  decently,  and  at  the  same 
time  without  injury  to  the  living,  is  one  of  the  first 
obligations  of  civilised  communities,  and  cremation 
seems  best  calculated  to  fulfil  the  conditions.  Zymotic 
diseases,  such  as  typhus,  scarlatina,  and  the  plague, 
have  been  traced  in  certain  instances  to  emanations 
from  burial-grounds. 

Dr.  Charles  Creighton,  in  his  i:  History  of  Epidemics 
in  Britain,"  vol.  i.,  p.  336,  says: — "The  grand  provoca- 
tive of  plague  was  no  obvious  nuisance  above  ground, 
but  the  loading  of  the  soil,  generation  after  generation, 
with  an  immense  quantity  of  cadaveric  matters,  which 
were  diffused  in  the  pores  of  the  ground  under  the 
feet  of  the  living,  to  rise  in  emanations  more  deadly 
in  one  season  than  in  another." 

It  would  seem  from  these  experiences  as  though 
there  was  quite  as  much  truth  as  poetry  in  Shake- 
speare when  he  said,  "  grave-yards  yawn,  and  hell  itself 
breathes  out  contagion  on  the  world."  Before  many 
years  it  is  not  unlikely  that  cremation  in  this  as  in 
some  other  countries  will  be  made  obligatory  in  cases 
of  death  from  all  infectious  diseases.  As  the  late 
Bishop  of  Manchester  observed,  "the  earth  is  not  for 
the  dead,  but  for  the  living."  Professor  Alexander 
Wilder,  M.D.,  in  his  "Perils  of  Premature  Burial," 
1895,  p.  16,  says: — "I  have  often  wished  that  the 
old  Oriental  practice  of  cremation  was  in  fashion 
among  us.  There  would  then  be  at  least  the  com- 
fortable reflection  of  no  liability  to  suffocation  in  a 
coffin.  The  application  of  fire,  however,  will  generally 
rouse  the  cataleptic  person  to  some  manifestation  of 



In  "  The  London  Burial -Grounds,"  by  Mrs.  Basil 
Holmes,  1896,  p.  269,  the  question  is  asked:  "Are  we 
ever  to  allow  England  to  be  divided  like  a  chess-board 
into  towns  and  burial-places?  What  we  have  to  consider 
is  how  to  dispose  of  the  dead  without  taking  so  much 
valuable  space  from  the  living.  In  the  metropolitan 
area  alone  we  have  almost  filled  (and  in  some  places 
over-filled)  twenty- four  new  cemeteries  within  sixty 
years,  with  an  area  of  above  six  hundred  acres;  and 
this  is  as  nothing  compared  with  the  huge  extent  of 
land  used  for  interments  just  outside  the  limits  of  the 
metropolis.  If  the  cemeteries  are  not  to  extend 
indefinitely,  they  must  in  time  be  built  upon,  or  they 
must  be  used  for  burial  over  and  over  again,  or  the 
ground  must  revert  to  its  original  state  as  agricultural 
land,  or  we  must  turn  our  parks  and  commons  into 
cemeteries,  and  let  our  cemeteries  be  our  only  recrea- 
tion grounds,  which  heaven  forbid." 

According  to  Dr.  Ebenezer  Duncan,  eight  thousand 
bodies  are  buried  yearly  in  Glasgow  and  its  neighbour- 
hood, poisoning  both  air  and  water,  and  endangering  the 
public  health.  The  same  state  of  things  has  existed  in 
London,  Manchester,  Liverpool,  Birmingham,  and  other 
large  towns.  The  following  resolution  was  unanimously 
adopted  in  the  Preventive  Medicine  Department  of  a 
Health  Congress,  Glasgow,  in  July,  1896: — "That  in 
the  opinion  of  this  Congress  cremation  of  the  dead, 
especially  in  cases  of  infectious  disease,  is  a  natural  and 
very  desirable  hygienic  process,  and  that  this  Congress 
of  the  British  Institute  of  Public  Health  use  all  proper 


means  to  urge  upon  the  Government  the  desirability  of 
their  promoting  a  measure  to  enable  sanitary  authorities, 
if  they  so  desire,  to  build  crematoria  and  to  conduct 
them  under  proper  superintendence." 

During  the  thirteen  years  ending  1890  there  were 
three  hundred  and  three  thousand  four  hundred  and 
sixty-six  deaths  from  cholera  in  Japan,  and  all  the 
bodies  of  these  persons  were  cremated.  In  India,  as 
we  have  already  shown,  cremation  is  practised  under 
most  of  the  religious  systems,  as  it  is  believed  that 
the  soul  is  not  free  from  its  earthly  tenement  until 
the  body  is  reduced  to  ashes.  The  method  of 
burning  is  slow  and  cumbersome  as  compared  with 
that  adopted  in  Europe;  but  during  the  author's  last 
visit  to  Ceylon,  in  the  earl}'  part  of  1896,  there  was 
some  talk  of  establishing  a  crematorium. 



IN  La  Presse  Medicate,  Paris,  August  17,  1904,  appears 
a  very  interesting  article  by  M.  Icard,  of  Marseilles, 
occupying  more  than  twelve  columns  of  the  journal, 
on  the  subject  of  "  The  Danger  of  Apparent  Death." 
The  writer,  who  holds  a  high  position  in  the  medical 
world,  says  that  for  the  past  twelve  years  he  has 
conducted  enquiries  into  every  report  of  alleged 
premature  burial  or  of  apparent  death  which  has 
appeared  in  the  public  press,  by  writing  to  the 
mayor  of  the  town  where  the  event  was  said  to  have 
taken  place,  or  to  some  other  official  capable  of 
giving  authentic  information. 

Dr.  Icard  proceeds  to  state  that  it  would  be  useless 
for  him  to  repeat  the  numerous  facts  which  he  had 
published  in  a  preceding  work,1  but  he  goes  on  to 
enumerate  in  detail  some  twelve  instances  of  resuscita- 
tion which,  for  the  most  part,  have  not  been  previously 
published.  The  cases  he  gives  are  all  those  of  apparent 
death,  certified  as  dead  in  almost  every  instance  by 
medical  men,  but  which  subsequently  "  came  to  life " 
just  in  time  to  save  them  from  the  most  horrible  of 
deaths.  In  one  instance  "  return  to  life "  took  place 

1  "  La  Mort  et  la  Mort  Subite."  Paris,  1895.  Ouvrage  couronne 
par  I'lnstitut  de  France,  Paris,  1897. 


in  the  presence  of  several  doctors  whilst  the  funeral 
ceremony  over  the  supposed  corpse  was  solemnly 
proceeding.  M.  K.  Boussakis,  Professor  of  Physiology 
at  the  Faculty  of  Medicine  of  Athens,  was  an  eye- 
witness of  this  scene.  And  another  well-authenticated 
instance  was  that  of  a  fisherman  who  had  been  "dead" 
for  twenty  hours  from  "apoplexy,"  and  whose  body 
was  cold.  He  was  wrapped  and  sewn  up  in  his 
funeral  shroud,  and  left  till  the  time  of  burial ;  but 
on  the  way  to  the  cemetery  the  bearers  heard  muffled 
sounds  within  the  coffin,  which  was  accordingly  opened. 
Three  medical  men  who  were  passing  were  appealed 
to  in  order  to  pronounce  on  the  man's  condition. 
Restorative  means  were  employed,  and  in  a  few  days 
he  was  well.  This  is  given  on  the  authority  of  Dr. 
Zacutus  Lusitanus,  who  was  present  on  the  occasion. 
The  writer  declares  that  he  has  "  taken  the  greatest 
pains  to  verify  every  case  he  now  publishes,"  and 
"  the  proof  of  authenticity  is,"  he  says,  "  of  such  a 
nature  as  must  carry  conviction  to  the  minds  of  the 
most  sceptical." 

In  the  course  of  this  valuable  article,  Dr.  Icard 
draws  attention  to  the  waiting  mortuaries  established 
in  many  towns  in  Germany,  in  which  the  bodies  of 
the  certified  dead  are  deposited  until  the  evidence  of 
putrefaction  is  apparent;  and  he  goes  on  to  say:  "It 
is  stated  by  some  authors  that  there  is  no  instance  in 
the  registers  of  these  mortuaries  'of  those  resurrections 
which  are  served  up  as  a  feast  for  the  popular  imagi- 
nation/ and  they  argue  from  such  statements,  which 
they  think  cannot  be  answered,  against  the  reality  of 
the  danger  of  apparent  death.  But  are  not  those 

REVIVAL    IN    A    MORTUARY.  337 

authors,"  he  asks,  "who  reproach  others  with  credulity 
when  they  cite  an  instance  of  apparent  death,  very 
credulous  themselves  when  they  affirm,  on  the  faith  of 
others,  their  disbelief  in  cases  of  resuscitation  from 
apparent  death  in  German  mortuaries?" 

One  case  in  particular  he  gives,  details  of  which 
he  obtained  from  the  burgomaster  of  Ludwigshaffen- 
sur-Rhin,  in  Bavaria.  On  the  I3th  June,  1903,  towards 
six  o'clock  in  the  evening,  a  child,  four  days  old,  was 
brought  to  the  mortuary,  whose  death  had  been  certified 
by  a  medical  man  at  nine  o'clock  that  morning.  The 
burgomaster  adds  that  "the  doctor  examined  the  child, 
and  found  every  sign  of  death,  and  ordered  it  to  be 
taken  to  the  mortuary."  An  hour  after  the  body  had 
been  received  the  child  gave  signs  of  life,  and  it  was 
subsequently  returned  to  its  mother,  but  it  died  in 
reality  that  same  night. 

Now,  it  is  unnecessary  to  multiply  cases.  Granted 
that  only  one  single  unanswerable  instance  of  apparent 
death  —  an  instance  which  has  sufficed  to  baffle  the 
scrutiny  of  careful  examination  by  a  duly  qualified 
medical  man  —  be  forthcoming,  and  such  case  upon 
removal  to  a  waiting  mortuary  has  recovered,  it  would, 
we  maintain,  be  a  sufficient  warrant,  not  only  for 
waiting  until  the  only  unmistakable  sign  of  death — 
putrefaction — is  evident,  but  for  providing  a  suitable 
place  for  the  body  to  wait  in.  The  indifferent  sceptic 
may  reply:  "What!  would  you  go  to  such  pains  and 
expense,  when  the  possibility  of  a  mistake  is  probably 
only  one  in  50,000,  or  even  more  ?  "  The  humanitarian 
will  promptly  answer:  "Yes;  even  if  it  were  only  one 
in  fifty  millions,  that  one  is  a  living  human  soul."  But 


we  have  already  proved  conclusively  that  such  cases 
are  anything  but  rare,  and,  as  Dr.  Icard  graphically 
puts  it  in  the  article  we  have  referred  to,  "  if  there 
are  so  many  truly  authentic  cases  of  apparent  death 
and  of  premature  burial  which  have  come  to  light,  it 
is  presumable  that  there  are  many  more,  the  only 
witnesses  of  which  are  the  boards  of  the  coffin." 


A  writer  in  the  British  and  Foreign  Medico-Chirur- 
gical  Revieiv,  1855,  vol.  xv.,  p.  75,  says: — "The  earliest 
movements  in  the  direction  of  means  for  the  prevention 
of  premature  interments  originated  with  Winslow,  in 
France,  followed  by  other  well-known  writers  upon  the 
signs  of  death.  It  was  Madame  Necker,  however,  who 
embodied  their  suggestions  in  a  practicable  form  as 
submitted  to  the  National  Assembly,  in  1792,  by 
Count  Berchshold.  In  the  ninth  year  of  the  first 
French  Republic  (1801)  a  project  was  entertained  for 
the  erection  of  six  '  temples  funeraires '  in  Paris,  but 
came  to  no  good,  as  attendant  evils  preponderated. 
To  Germany  belongs  the  credit  of  having  executed 
these  designs  in  such  wise  that  they  should  not  prove 
the  positive  sources  of  more  danger  to  the  living 
than  could  be  counterbalanced  by  the  occasional 
preservation  of  an  individual  from  the  risk  of  prema- 
ture interment.  Believing  that  this  risk  had  been 
prodigiously  diminished  since  the  establishment  of 
these  institutions  for  the  reception  of  cases  where 
cloubt  of  the  reality  of  death  has  existed,  Hufeland, 
in  Weimar,  devised  the  plan  that  Frankfort-on-the- 
Maine  incorporated  with  its  reform  in  sepulture  and 


establishment  of  extra-mural  cemeteries,  in  1823.  The 
first  modern  mortuary  was  opened  at  Weimar,  Germany 
in  1791.  Hufeland's  plans  have  subsequently  been 
adopted  and  carried  out  in  many  other  German 
States.  ...  As  a  sanitary  measure  the  separation 
of  the  dead  from  the  living,  especially  from  among 
the  crowded  poor,  would  be,  apart  from  the  not  less 
important  point  of  verification  of  death,  an  incalculable 
benefit.  ...  It  behoves  us  in  this  matter  to  learn 
another  lesson  from  our  neighbours,  and  to  take 
measures  to  prevent  the  occurrence  of  catastrophes 
too  fearfully  horrible  to  comtemplate  in  thought,  too 
dreadful  for  the  most  vivid  imagination  to  realise. 
Science  can  hold  out  no  token  by  which  to  recognise 
the  certainty  of  death.  Sanitary  police,  at  least  in 
England,  are  indifferent  about  the  risk  of  a  few  burials 
alive,  and  thinks  it  superfluous  to  prevent  their 

The  extensive  literature  on  this  subject  shows  that  the 
struggle  to  bring  about  the  existing  mortuary  system  in 
Germany  was  kept  up  for  many  years  before  it  obtained 
its  measure  of  success.  It  was  legalised  about  the  year 
1795,  after  the  physicians  of  Germany,  France,  and 
Austria  had  shown  the  absolute  necessity  for  it. 

Mortuaries  have  continued  in  high  favour  with  the 
people  wherever  they  have  once  been  properly  estab- 
lished ;  none,  so  far  as  the  author  has  been  able  to 
learn,  have  ever  been  abolished. 


Referring  to  the  universal  fear  of  burying  relatives 
alive,  the  Lancet,  September  20,  1845,  vol.  ii.,  p.  321, 


observed: — "  It  is  but  little  use  to  descant  upon  an  evil 
without  pointing  out  a  remedy.  In  Frankfort,  Munich, 
and  in  various  other  towns,  houses,  properly  situated, 
have  been  fitted  up  for  the  temporary  reception  of  the 
dead.  Corpses  are  there  deposited  immediately  after 
death,  and  taken  care  of  until  the  signs  of  decomposition 
have  become  unequivocal,  medical  assistance  being  at 
hand  should  symptoms  of  vitality  manifest  themselves. 
By  this  simple  plan  all  the  objections  which  attend  on 
the  retention  of  the  dead  in  the  dwellings  of  the  poor 
may  be  obviated,  and  at  the  same  time  their  dread  of 
burying  their  relatives  while  still  alive  respected.  This 
plan  is  evidently  much  preferable  to  that  which  is 
followed  in  France.  In  the  latter  country,  in  the  large 
towns,  there  is  in  every  district  a  medical  inspector  of 
the  dead.  The  inspector  is  informed  of  the  death  as 
soon  as  it  has  taken  place,  and  within  a  very  limited 
time  is  bound  to  inspect  the  body  and  give  a  formal 
certificate.  This  guarantee  having  been  obtained,  the 
inhumation  of  the  deceased  is  enforced  by  law  within 
two  or  three  days  of  the  death.  Notwithstanding  this 
precaution,  cases  have  occurred,  even  during  the  last 
few  years,  which  appear  to  prove  that  inhumation  has 
taken  place  before  life  was  quite  extinct.  We  doubt, 
also,  whether  such  early  interment  could  under  any 
circumstances  be  enforced  in  our  own  country.  Some 
modification  of  the  German  plan  is  evidently  what  we 
must  look  for  in  any  system  of  legislation  which  may 
hereafter  be  decided  on."  These  admirable  suggestions 
from  the  leading  medical  journal  were  made  more  than 
half  a  century  ago;  since  that  time,  every  year  has 
brought  to  light  cases  of  living  burial,  and  confirmed 


the  urgent  need  of  reform;  but  nothing  has  been 
done  until  quite  recently  to  awaken  public  attention  to 
their  importance.  The  subject  is  of  such  a  gruesome, 
unpleasant,  and  depressing  character  that  few  people 
care  to  have  their  names  associated  with  a  movement 
of  this  character,  beneficent  though  it  is,  and  certain 
to  save  thousands  of  unfortunate  people,  particularly 
women  and  children  (who  are  more  especially  liable 
to  various  forms  of  suspended  animation),  from  such 
tragic  occurrences. 


jjf  3  V  B    8: 'HiPf  ^'l*?*'*^^*!-; 




Of  all  the  various  methods  that  have  been  suggested 
or  introduced  for  the  prevention  of  premature  inter- 
ment, none  has  been  attended  with  such  satisfactory 
results  as  the  erection  of  mortuaries  (LeichenhauserJ 
in  Germany. 

Those  of  Munich  are,  perhaps,  the  finest  which 
have  yet  been  erected,  and  are  replete  with  every 
modern  appliance  for  resuscitation,  should  such  be 
necessary,  and  furnished  with  every  requisite  suited 
to  the  refinements  of  sympathy  and  taste. 


In  order  to  better  understand  the  precise  conditions 
which  should  obtain  in  such  establishments,  we  have 
added  photographs  of  parts  of  these  extensive  build- 
ings, for  which  we  are  indebted  to  the  excellent 
French  journal  L Illustration,  and  from  the  interesting 
description  published  in  its  columns  we  have  extracted 
many  of  the  following  particulars.  These  particulars, 
with  the  accompanying  illustrations,  will  explain,  far 
better  than  any  advice  we  can  give,  the  reform  which, 
we  believe,  is  urgently  needed  in  our  own  country. 

Waiting  mortuaries  have  existed  at  Munich  since 
the  beginning  of  the  last  century.  The  custom  of 
removing  bodies  to  them  was  at  first  optional,  and, 
therefore,  was  not  freely  taken  advantage  of.  In 
1869,  however,  at  the  time  of  an  epidemic  of  cholera, 
a  police  regulation  rendered  it  obligatory.  At  first 
the  inhabitants  rebelled,  looking  upon  those  who 
wished  to  take  away  their  dead  from  them  as  odious ; 
but  the  authorities  were  very  determined,  and  by 
degrees  the  citizens  became  used  to  a  custom  the 
advantages  of  which  are  now  highly  appreciated. 

When  a  death  occurs  in  a  house  in  Munich,  the 
family  at  once  apprise  the  police  of  the  fact,  and  they 
themselves  have  no  more  to  do  with  the  matter.  Half 
an  hour  after,  a  public  medical  officer  arrives,  who 
confirms  the  death,  and  gives  permission  for  the  corpse 
to  be  removed.  At  the  Town  Hall  a  whole  army  of 
women,  supported  by  the  municipality,  is  permanently 
kept,  who  are  deputed  to  "  lay  out  "  the  corpse,  etc. 
One  of  these  women  arrives  at  the  same  time  as  the 
doctor ;  she  washes  the  corpse,  dresses  it — usually  in 
the  best  ordinary  attire — and  puts  it  in  the  coffin,  which 


is  then  conveyed  by  a  hearse  to  the  mortuary.  None 
of  the  family  accompany  it.  Everything  is  done  with 
the  utmost  rapidity.  According  to  the  regulations,  the 
body  must  be  removed  within  twelve  hours  after 
death,  or  within  six  hours  if  the  case  is  contagious. 
These  rules  are  strictly  observed ;  often  even  at  the 
end  of  three  or  four  hours  the  death  chamber  is 

Munich  has  ten  mortuaries  ;  nine  are  open  to  those 
of  every  religion,  one  is  reserved  for  those  of  the 
Jewish  faith.  It  is  the  mortuary  chamber  of  the  North 
Mortuary,  which  is  here  reproduced. 

In  an  immense  room,  closed  by  large  glass  doors,, 
through  which  the  interior  can  be  seen  from  the  outside, 
are  ranged  in  three  rows  twenty  sarcophagi,  fixed  in  a 
sloping  position.  The  slabs  upon  which  they  rest  are 
supplied  with  a  zinc  trench,  filled  with  an  antiseptic 
fluid.  At  the  head  of  each  coffin  a  rod  is  fixed,  from 
which  falls  a  cord  having  a  metal  ring  at  its  extremity. 
This  cord  communicates  with  a  system  of  bells,  and  the 
least  pressure  on  the  rope  sets  it  in  motion. 

From  the  moment  of  its  arrival  at  the  mortuary  the 
coffin  is  uncovered,  and  placed  on  one  of  the  slabs.  The 
body  is  raised,  and  reclines  upon  a  cushion,  and  the 
whole  is  covered  by  a  profusion  of  flowers,  usually  allow- 
ing only  the  head  of  the  corpse  to  be  seen,  besides  a 
large  ticket  bearing  the  number  of  identification.  The 
hands  are  crossed  upon  the  breast,  and  one  of  the  fingers 
inserted  in  the  ring.  All  this  is  carried  out  by  public 
servants,  who  usually  show  good  taste  in  these  funeral 
arrangements.  Many  families  have  their  dead  photo- 
graphed like  this ;  and  the  coffin  is  carried  into  a  court 


specially  kept  for  this  purpose.  Owing  to  the  perfect 
ventilation  and  the  steadiness  of  the  temperature,  no 
odour  is  noticed  but  the  smell  of  the  flowers  and  the 
lighted  candles.  The  relative  purity  of  the  atmosphere 
is  really  astonishing. 

There  is  a  room  for  the  rich  and  another  for  the 
poor,  adjoining  each  other.  Nothing  distinguishes  them, 
except  perhaps  the  quality  of  the  flowers  provided  for 
the  respective  classes.  The  cost  is  very  moderate.  The 
total  charge  (not  counting  the  service  in  the  church,  or 
the  price  of  the  certificate)  varies  from  £i  to  £6. 

The  body  remains  exposed  thus  from  forty-eight 
to  seventy-two  hours.  The  relatives  are  allowed  to 
visit,  and,  also,  they  may  appoint  a  nun  or  other 
person  to  watch. 

Between  the  two  mortuaries  is  the  caretaker's  room 
— a  narrow  cell,  containing  the  bell  apparatus,  which 
is  enclosed  in  a  long  cupboard,  like  the  case  of  a 
grandfather's  clock.  For  furniture — a  table,  a  chair, 
and  a  couch.  Windows  look  into  the  mortuary.  It 
is  here  that  the  caretaker  passes  the  greater  part  of 
his  existence.  He  has  to  make  frequent  rounds  of 
inspection,  and  is  not  allowed  to  leave  under  any 
pretext  whatever,  no  matter  for  how  short  a  time, 
unless  he  leaves  a  substitute.  In  the  evening  he 
stretches -himself  upon  his  couch,  where  the  slightest 
tinkle  of  the  bell  would  arouse  him.  This  frequently 
happens ;  the  warning  bell  is  so  sensitive  that  the 
least  shake  of  the  corpse  sets  it  in  motion.  But  the 
guardian  is  not  at  all  flustered  ;  various  causes  may 
agitate  the  bell,  and  the  waking  of  a  corpse  is  a  very 
rare  occurrence.  Nevertheless,  the  caretaker  at  once 



goes  to  ascertain  the  cause  of  the  alarm,  and,  having 
assured  himself  that  the  corpse  preserves  all  the  signs 
of  death,  he  readjusts  the  cord,  and  returns  to  continue 
his  sleep. 

The  coffin  is  closed  only  a  few  minutes  before 
interment,  and  after  a  final  medical  examination  has 
taken  place.  Sometimes,  when  a  nervous  family  wishes 
it,  the  coffin  is  carried  into  a  separate  room,  where  it 


is    kept    open    one    or    two    days    longer,   often    even 
making  an  incision  on  the  heel. 

One  sad  exception,  however,  to  the  usual  satis- 
factory results  is  recorded  by  M.  Gaubert  in  his  work, 
"  Les  Chambres  Mortuaires  d'Attente."  The  incident 
he  narrates  occurred  at  Munich  on  25th  January, 
1 849,  and  is  as  follows  :— 

"  A  young  man  who  was  asphyxiated  by  charcoal 
had  been  declared  dead  by  the  doctor.  After  they 
had  been  watching  the  body  twenty-four  hours  at  the 
mortuary  chamber,  the  family  caused  it  to  be  carried 
to  the  church,  where  it  passed  the  night  without  the 
customary  caretaker.  The  next  morning  '  the  corpse ' 
was  found  bathed  in  its  own  blood,  and  the  floor 
of  the  church  was  stained.  Restored  to  consciousness 
during  the  night,  and  not  having  any  help,  the  poor 
young  man  had  succumbed  to  haemorrhage,  brought 
on  by  the  incisions  which  they  blindly  practised  on 
the  body  of  the  supposed  dead  one,  to  make  sure  of 
his  death." 

Another  instance  he  gives,  also  occurred  at  Munich, 
is  of  a  different  character,  but  with  a  very  sad 
accompaniment : — 

"A  'little  child,  five  years  old,  was  carried  to  the 
Leichenhaiiser,  and  the  corpse  was  deposited  as  usual. 
The  next  morning  a  servant  from  the  mortuary 
knocked  at  the  mother's  house,  carrying  a  large 
bundle  in  his  arms.  It  was  the  resuscitated  child, 
which  she  was  mourning  as  lost.  The  transports  of 
joy  she  experienced  were  so  great  that  she-  fell  down 
dead.  The  child  came  to  life  in  the  mortuary  by 


itself,  and  when  the  keeper  saw  it,  it  was  playing 
with  the  white  roses  which  had  been  placed  on  its 

A  gigantic  mortuary  has  recently  been  built  in  the 
west  of  Munich,  the  most  perfect  in  Germany.  Under 
the  central  dome  are  a  series  of  chapels  provided  for 
different  religions.  On  each  side  is  an  immense  hall, 
shut  off  by  big  glass  doors,  which  move  on  rollers 
along  the  ground,  where  the  bodies  are  placed  in  one 
row.  This  gallery  is  flanked  by  two  corridors,  one 
reserved  for  the  public,  the  other  for  the  funeral  ser- 
vice. The  warning  bells  are  worked  by  electricity. 
The  heating  and  cooling  arrangements  are  marvellously 
organised,  keeping  a  constant  temperature  of  +7  degrees, 
which,  according  to  the  German  doctors,  is  the  most 
favourable  for  preserving  the  body. 

The  question  suggests  itself  here  :  Why  should  not 
the  English-speaking  peoples  accept  the  long  experi- 
ence of  a  philosophical,  painstaking,  clear-minded  people 
like  the  Germans,  supported  as  it  is  by  many  sanitary 
and  medical  authorities  in  France,  England,  and  the 
United  States,  and  establish  these  institutions  in 
connection  with  existing  cemeteries,  with  such  modifi- 
cations as  national  habits,  local  tastes,  and  customs 
may  dictate  ? 


In  sharp  contrast  to  the  magnificent  waiting  mortu- 
aries of  Munich,  Berlin,  and  other  parts  of  Germany 
stand  the  mortuaries  of  the  English  metropolis.  They 
are  nearly  all  plain,  gloomy,  and  depressing  structures  of 


brick.  The  best  of  them  comprise  a  coroner's  court- 
room, coroner's  private  room,  the  caretaker's  rooms, 
waiting  room,  post-mortem  room,  chapel,  and  viewing 
room  connected.  There  is  no  physician  in  attendance, 
and  no  autopsies  are  performed  except  by  surgeons 
upon  their  own  cases,  or  for  purposes  of  inquests. 
There  are  no  appliances  or  conveniences  for  resuscita- 
tion, as  all  the  bodies  are  regarded  as  dead,  having 
been  for  the  most  part  certified  as  such  by  a  medical 
practitioner,  the  exceptions  being  such  as  are  taken 
from  the  water  or  street  by  the  police,  or  left  there 
for  inquest.  The  buildings  are  usually  well  lighted, 
and  some  of  the  rooms  contain  fire-places,  but  they 
are  devoid  of  taste  or  ornamentation  of  any  kind. 
The  bodies  are  kept  in  coffins,  which,  if  there  is  any 
odour  proceeding  from  them,  are  screwed  down.  Per- 
mission is  afforded  for  inspection  by  doctors  or  by  any 
of  the  family  of  the  deceased  on  application  to  the 
keeper.  These  mortuaries  are  kept  clean,  and  decent 
and  respectful  treatment  of  the  bodies  is  enforced  by 

By  the  courtesy  of  the  Clerk  to  the  London  County 
Council,  we  have  received  a  "  copy  of  the  last  return 
of  coroners'  courts,  mortuaries,  and  post-mortem  cham- 
bers issued  by  the  Council."  This  return  is  dated 
November  14,  1899.  There  appears  to  have  been  little 
alteration  since  the  publication  of  the  1894  return, 
which  we  noticed  in  our  first  edition.  In  the  annual 
report,  1902-3,  it  is  said:  "Three  boroughs  are  pro- 
vided with  good  mortuaries  and  post-mortem  rooms. 
.  ...  In  the  remaining  boroughs  partial  or  pro- 
visional accommodation  as  to  mortuaries,  post-mortem 


rooms,  and  coroners'  courts  exist,  and  the  question  of 
the  improvement  of  such  accommodation  is  under  con- 
sideration." That  is,  of  the  twenty-eight  boroughs  of 
which  London  is  composed,  only  three  are  declared 
to  be  provided  with  "  good  "  mortuary  accommodation. 

At  Shoreditch  "there  is  a  small  mortuary  in  the 
parish  churchyard,  consisting  of  two  rooms — one  of 
which  is  used  as  a  post-mortem  room.  Any  enlarge- 
ment is  prevented  by  the  fact  of  it  being  a  disused 
burial  ground."  It  is  proposed  to  improve  it  by 
"lining  the  walls  with  glazed  tiles,  and  providing 
means  for  heating  water."  At  Poplar  the  mortuary 
is  "inadequate  and  unsuitable."  The  mortuary  in 
Bromley  Cemetery  is  "unsatisfactory";  and  that  in  Bow 
Churchyard  "  is  merely  an  old  crypt,  quite  unfit  for 
use  as  a  mortuary,  and  has  no  post-mortem  accom- 
modation." We  are  officially  informed  that  "  in  no 
part  of  the  new  borough  of  Wandsworth  is  ... 
the  mortuary  accommodation  entirely  satisfactory." 

At  St.  George-the-Martyr  the  mortuary  "  has  no 
infectious  chamber,  and  the  post-mortem  room  is 
incompletely  separated  from  the  mortuary";  whilst  at 
Christchurch  and  St.  Saviour's  there  is  "an  inadequate 
mortuary  under  a  railway  arch."  At  Horsleydown, 
Southwark,  "  the  inadequacy  of  the  mortuary  accom- 
modation "  has  been  repeatedly  brought  before  the 
notice  of  the  authorities.  The  Holborn  mortuary  is 
at  the  rear  of  the  Town  Hall ;  "  the  approach  is  either 
through  the  post-mortem  room  or  infectious  chamber" 
— the  latter  "  serves  as  a  viewing  room  to  the  mor- 
tuary"! The  St.  Giles  mortuary  and  coroner's  court 
is  "  rather  small,  and  in  a  confined  position."  At  St. 


Paul's,  Deptford,  "  there  is  a  mortuary  in  the  church- 
yard, but  it  has  only  one  room,  which  serves  as  a 
mortuary  and  post-mortem  room.  This  is  contrary  to 
the  Public  Health  Act."  There  is  no  mortuary  at 
Hatcham,  nor  at  Charlton,  nor  Kidbrooke.  Lee  and 
Eltham  are,  according  to  the  last  return,  in  the  same 
unsatisfactory  condition. 

At  Greenwich  "there  is  a  mortuary,  with  post-mortem 
room,  in  a  disused  churchyard,  but  the  approach  is 
bad,  there  is  no  accommodation  for  infectious  cases, 
and  the  fittings  are  capable  of  improvement."  The 
mortuary  at  St.  Nicholas,  Deptford,  is  in  the  church- 
yard, and  "  consists  of  one  room,  with  slabs  for 
two  coffins.  It  is  also  used  as  a  post-mortem  room 
and  a  gardener's  tool-house  and  store."  Plumstead 
provides  "  a  small  underground  mortuary  in  St. 
Nicholas  Churchyard,  unsuitable  for  the  purpose."  At 
St.  Martin's-in-the-Fields  "  there  is  a  mortuary  under 

the  churchyard  of  St.  Martin's  Church 

but  there  is  no  infectious  chamber,  waiting  room,  or 
viewing  lobby." 

Judging  by  the  evidence  which  lies  before  us,  the 
state  of  the  mortuaries  in  the  London  hospitals  is  very 
much  on  a  par  with  the  state  of  similar  places  outside. 
The  Medical  Times^  in  an  article,  September  5,  1896, 
in  describing  some  of  the  mortuary  eccentricities,  cites 
one  hospital  where  the  only  place  available  was  the 
wash-house,  and  concludes  :  "  It  would  appear  that  the 
managers  of  metropolitan  hospitals  do  not  believe  in 
the  reality  of  death -counterfeits,  and  therefore  make 
no  arrangements  for  resuscitation."  This  condition  of 
things  is  not  encouraging,  and  can  scarcely  be  deemed 


worthy  of  the  first  city  in  the  world.  London  mortu- 
aries are  found  to  be  useful  and  convenient  in  relieving 
hotels  and  private  houses  of  the  dead  pending  funerals, 
and  in  cases  of  deaths  from  infectious  diseases,  as  well 
as  from  accidents  and  acts  of  violence  which  require 
investigation.  There  is,  therefore,  a  disposition  to  im- 
prove matters,  but  even  in  the  three  boroughs — Chelsea, 
Hampstead,  and  Stoke  Newington — whose  mortuaries 
are  singled  out  from  all  the  rest  for  official  praise, 
much  yet  remains  to  be  done  ere  •  the  conditions 
can  at  all  compare  with  buildings  erected  for  a  similar 
purpose  on  the  Continent. 

At  small  outlay  they  could  be  made  creditable  and 
useful  establishments.  First  of  all,  they  require  the 
means  of  resuscitation,  such  as  are  in  use  at  the  Royal 
Humane  Society's  depots  and  at  the  German  mortu- 
aries ;  also  baths,  couches,  plants,  flowers,  and  mural 
ornaments,  with  a  skilled  nurse  or  caretaker,  and  a 
medical  practitioner  either  on  the  establishment  or 
within  telephone  call. 

A  fundamental  regulation  should  be  added  to  the 
standing  orders  that,  when  there  is  no  sign  of  decom- 
position, bodies  should  be  treated  not  as  dead  but  as 
sick  needing  attention,  and  to  be  kept  under  careful 
observation.  Such  simple  and  inexpensive  alterations, 
gradually  introduced  by  County,  Parish,  and  District 
Councils,  would,  in  the  course  of  time,  bring  about  a 
greater  respect  for  the  dead,  with  proper  consideration 
for  the  apparently  dead,  besides  increasing  the  feeling 
of  the  sanctity  of  human  life.  In  the  course  of  time 
these  improvements  would  educate  the  public,  and  lead 
to  the  erection  of  new  and  handsome  structures  of 


beautiful  design,  with  appropriate  artistic  decorations, 
such  as  are  to  be  found  in  Munich  and  other  parts  of 

The  following  pointed  recommendation  made  by  Sir 
VV.  J.  Collins,  M.D.,  M.S.,  B.Sc,  D.P.H.  (London),  late 
chairman  of  the  L.C.C.,  in  a  paper  read  by  him  at  the 
Hygiene  Congress  at  Buda  Pesth,  is  worthy  of  urgent 
notice:  "I  therefore  hold  that  every  inducement  should 
be  held  out  to  the  poor  by  local  authorities,  by  the 
provision  of  decent,  suitable,  and  attractive  mortuaries, 
to  allow  their  dead  to  be  removed  from  danger  to  the 
living  to  a  place  where  sentiment  shall  be  respected 
and  sanitation  satisfied." 


Judging  by  replies  we  have  received  from  officials 
in  many  of  the  larger  towns  in  the  United  Kingdom, 
the  majority  publish  no  reports  of  their  mortuaries, 
nor  do  they  issue  any  definite  regulations.  Separate 
records  of  the  bodies  laid  in  the  mortuaries  appear 
to  be  very  rarely  kept.  In  none  is  there  the  least 
assimilation  to  the  ideas  which  permeate  the  official 
and  public  mind  in  the  Continental  towns  referred  to. 
They  are  simply  depositories  for  the  homeless  and 
neglected  dead. 


The  following  extracts  are  from  the  report  by  Dr. 
J.  E.  Kenny,  M.P.,  Coroner  for  the  City  of  Dublin  :— 

"  There  are  no  local    laws  in    Dublin  or  in    Ireland 


relative  to  the  mode  of  disposal  of  the  dead,  but  the 
Sanitary  Acts,  which  refer  to  the  United  Kingdom  of 
Great  Britain  and  Ireland,  can  be  availed  of  when 
necessary  to  compel  the  burial  of  the  dead  within  a 
reasonable  period,  on  the  ground  that  an  unburied 
body  is  a  nuisance  dangerous  to  public  health.  There 
is,  however,  no  fixed  period.  Among  Roman  Catholics 
it  is  customary  to  bury  the  dead  on  the  third  or 
fourth  day  after  death,  but  there  is  no  hard-and-fast 

rule The    local    burial    authorities    usually 

require  a  medical  certificate  of  death  before  opening 
the  grave,  but  there  is  no  legal  sanction  for  this,  and 
it  is  merely  the  custom.  The  coroner's  order  for 
burial  where  an  inquest  is  held  does  away  with  the 
necessity  of  such  certificates  as  those  above  referred 
to,  but  post-mortem  examinations  in  these  cases  are 
the  exception,  not  the  rule.  A  good  many,  however, 
are  held  on  those  who  die  in  local  hospitals,  when 
the  consent  of  the  relatives  or  friends  can  be  obtained. 
I  have  not  heard  of  any  case  of  cremation  in  Ireland, 
and  earth-burial  is  the  universal  practice.  Occasionally, 
when  so  ordered  by  the  will  of  the  deceased,  a  body 
is  removed  to  England  for  cremation.  I  am  myself 
rather  in  favour  of  cremation  as  a  more  scientific  and 
safer  method  of  disposing  of  the  dead. 

"  There  are  no  chambers  (mortuaries)  of  the  kind 
referred  to  in  this  question  in  Dublin,  nor,  so  far  as 
I  know,  in  Ireland.  I  know  of  no  law  as  to  the 
signs  of  death  which  must  be  recognised  to  exist 
before  burial  is  permitted,  nor  is  there  any  officer  on 
whom  is  thrown  the  duty  of  ascertaining  or  deciding 
whether  such  exist  or  not." 



During  the  discussion  on  premature  burials  in  the 
press,  the  erection  of  mortuaries  (chambres  mortuaires 
d'attente)  has  been  objected  to  (i)  on  the  ground  of 
expense  to  the  ratepayers  ;  (2)  because  the  results  by 
way  of  resuscitation  of  those  constructed  in  Germany 
have  not  justified  the  cost  of  their  erection  and  main- 
tenance, and  that  if  they  had  not  already  been  in 
existence  they  would  not  now,  it  is  said,  be  established; 
(3)  because  relations  object  to  be  separated  from  their 
dead  before  burial. 

As  to  expense,  it  is  not  unlikely  that  the  unthinking 
majority  would  prefer  to  accept  what  they  may  look 
upon  as  an  infinitesimal  risk  rather  than  incur  the 
neccessary  outlay.  When  once,  however,  the  public 
is  aroused  to  the  fact  that  living  burial  is  a  serious 
and  real  danger,  the  expense  will  no  longer  be  taken 
into  consideration.  Tastefully  designed  mortuaries  in  all 
populous  districts  could  be  met  by  a  rate  of  from  one 
farthing  to  a  penny  in  the  pound,  and  in  the  smaller 
or  thinly-populated  districts  groups  of  parishes  could 
unite  in  providing  such  useful  institutions.  *  Public 
bodies  might  appropriately  take  this  matter  up  under 
the  powers  granted  to  them  by  the  Local  Government 
Act  of  1894.  At  present,  under  existing  customs, 
probably  ten  times  the  amount  required  is  annually 
expended  in  funeral  trappings,  mourning  habiliments, 
costly  wreaths,  and  ornamental  monuments  (mainly 
for  the  purpose  of  ostentatious  display)  that  would 
provide  temporary  resting-places  for  the  real  and 
apparently  dead  in  every  part  of  the  United  Kingdom. 


The  erection  of  such  establishments,  where  the  fact 
of  death  in  every  case  could  be  unequivocally  de- 
monstrated before  burial  or  cremation,  would  remove 
an  ever  present  and  consuming  load  of  anxiety  from 
the  hearts  of  thousands  of  sensitive  souls. 

The  second  objection — namely,  that  results  in  resus- 
citation have  not  justified  their  erection,  and  that 
such  mortuaries  are  no  longer  built — is  simply  untrue. 
Mortuaries,  upon  a  scale  hitherto  unattempted,  have  but 
recently  been  erected  in  Berlin  and  Munich,  and  similar 
establishments  are  to  be  erected  in  Paris,  whilst  many 
other  towns  and  cities  on  the  Continent,  which  have  not 
yet  adopted  the  system,  have  the  matter  under  grave 
consideration.  We  have  already  quoted  instances  of 
resuscitation  in  them  as  a  proof  of  their  utility,  and 
more  cases  will  be  given  before  concluding  this  chapter. 

We  have  seen  it  stated  and  restated  in  public  journals, 
and  by  public  men  who  ought  to  be  more  guarded  in 
their  utterances,  that  "there  has  never  been  known  a 
single  case  of  resuscitation  in  a  German  mortuary." 
This  is  clearly  denied  in  the  report  of  the  Municipal 
Council  of  Paris  for  1880,  No.  174,  p.  84,  wherein  is 
published  a  letter  from  Herr  Ehrhart,  Mayor  of  Munich,. 
May  2,  1880,  who  says: — "The  lengthy  period  during 
which  these  establishments  have  been  utilised,  the  order 
which  has  always  prevailed,  the  manner  in  which  the 
remains  are  disposed  and  adorned,  the  resuscitation  of 
some  who  were  believed  to  be  dead,  have  all  contributed 
to  remove  any  sentimental  objections  to  these  establish- 
ments. The  bodies  are  transported  to  the  Leichenhaiiser 
twelve  hours  after  death,  without  the  least  opposition 
upon  the  part  of  the  relatives." 


But  the  very  presence  of  a  system  of  this  descrip- 
tion would,  in  the  ordinary  course  of  things,  lessen 
the  number  of  premature  interments ;  for,  where  the 
dead  remain  under  public  supervision  until  putrefaction 
commences,  the  expert  medical  official,  who  is  publicly 
employed  to  verify  the  deaths,  would  be  exceedingly 
cautious  ere  he  granted  his  certificate,  and  ordered 
the  body  to  be  removed  to  the  mortuary.  There 
could  be  no  possibility  under  such  conditions  of 
the  existence  of  a  scandal  similar  to  that  which 
came  to  light  at  an  inquest  held  at  Wigan  by  Mr. 
S.  Brighouse,  one  of  the  County  Coroners  for  Lan- 
cashire, on  December  21,  1902.  The  Coroner  said 
"  the  circumstances  were,  perhaps,  the  most  remarkable 
he  had  ever  had  to  disclose  to  a  jury."  The  child 
had  "  died  "  four  times,  and  the  mother  had  obtained 
three  medical  certificates  of  death  on  the  strength  of 
her  own  diagnoses ! 

At  the  same  time,  it  must  be  admitted,  it  is  very 
difficult  for  an  enquirer  on  the  Continent  to  obtain 
reliable  information  with  regard  to  what  takes  place 
within  the  walls  of  mortuaries,  because  of  the  numerous 
officials  and  others  who  are  interested  in  covering  up 
any  errors  of  previous  death-certification  that  may 
come  to  light  in  them.  The  system  in  Germany  is 
practically  one  of  police  regulation.  But,  difficult  as 
it  may  be  to  ascertain  the  complete  number  of  cases 
which,  as  the  result  of  the  excellent  mortuary  system, 
have  been  saved  from  a  horrible  death,  there  have  been 
a  sufficient  number  brought  to  light  to  warrant  the 
trite  observation  made  by  The  Hospital  on  February 
27,  1904 : — "  Even  if  the  risk  is  as  slight  as  most 


authorities  contend,  there  is  no  reason  why  it  should 
not  be  completely  removed." 

In  reply  to  the  third  objection,  which  is  one  of 
sentiment,  and  which  we  would  not  wish  to  underrate, 
we  believe  mourners  would  soon  get  accustomed  to 
the  separation  from  their  dead  if  the  latter  were 
removed  to  mortuaries  where  the  surroundings  were 
of  a  pleasing  character,  and  where  they  could  visit 
the  remains  as  often  as  they  pleased.  The  possibility 
that  by  such  means  a  terrible  mistake  may  be  rectified 
would  appeal  to  the  most  sensitive;  and  the  poor,  who 
can  ill  spare  the  room  required  for  the  deposit  of  a 
coffin,  would,  upon  the  grounds  of  health  and  conveni- 
ence, soon  come  to  value  such  a  system.  The  writer, 
in  the  course  of  his  practice,  has  on  several  occasions 
found,  among  the  very  poor,  families  having  meals  in 
tiny  rooms  in  a  city  slum  side  by  side  with  a  shell 
containing  the  corpse  of  a  departed  relative. 


Out  of  the  quantity  of  material  which  lies  before  us 
it  is  somewhat  difficult  to  select  illustrative  cases  suited 
to  the  limited  space  at  command.  The  following  are 
such  as  are  vouched  for  by  competent  authorities: — 


"  A  Berlin  apothecary  wrote  to  me  lately,"  says  Dr. 
Lenormand,  "  in  this  town  to  the  effect  that  during  an 
interval  of  two  years  and  a  half  ten  people  stated  to 
be  dead  had  been  recalled  to  life.  I  shall  quote  only 
the  following: — 



'"In  the  middle  of  the  night  the  bell  of  the  vestibule  rang 
violently.  The  caretaker,  who  had  only  entered  on  duties  within 
a  few  days,  much  startled,  ran  towards  the  mortuary.  As  soon 
as  he  opened  the  door  he  found  himself  confronted  with  one  of 
"the  corpses"  enveloped  in  his  shroud,  who  had  quitted  his  bier 
and  was  making  his  way  out.  He  was  a  soldier  of  the  guard 
believed  to  be  dead,  and  he  was  able  to  join  his  regiment  five 
days  later.' " 


Dr.  Josat  said  that,  during  his  sojourn  in  Germany, 
Herr  Schmill,  director  of  the  mortuary  at  Frankfort, 
related  to  him  a  case  of  apparent  death  which  occurred 
under  his  own  eyes. 

"  In  the  year  1840,  a  girl  of  nineteen  years  died  of  acute 
pleuro-pneumonia.  Her  body,  during  very  hot  weather,  was  ex- 
posed in  the  mortuary  for  a  period  of  eight  days  in  a  state  of 
perfect  preservation.  Her  face  retained  its  colour,  the  limbs 
were  supple,  and  the  substance  of  the  cornea  transparent,  whereas 
in  ordinary  cases  decomposition  shows  itself  on  the  third  day. 
The  parents  could  not  reconcile  themselves  to  have  their  daughter 
buried,  and  found  themselves  much  troubled.  Finally,  on  the 
ninth  day,  the  supposed  dead  suddenly  awoke,  without  any  pre- 
monitory indications  of  life." 


M.  Gaubert,  a  very  painstaking  authority,  in  "  Les 
Chambres  Mortuaires  d'Attente,"  says:— 

"  There  was  a  case  at  Brussels  in  January,  1867,  of  a 
person  who  returned  to  life  just  as  the  bearers  arrived 
at  the  mortuary. 

"  'A  workman  of  the  suburbs,  employed  by  a  firm  of  carriers^ 
fell  ill,  and  in  a  few  days  died.  This  suddenness  of  the  death 
caused  doubts  as  to  its  reality,  and  after  the  usual  delay  he  was 


taken  to  the  mortuary  connected  with  the  cemetery.  The  body 
was  left  for  a  few  days'  observation.  As  soon  as  they  arrived 
a  noise  escaped  from  the  coffin,  and  arrested  the  attention  of 
the  people  present.  At  once  they  hastened  towards  the  coffin, 
and  tried  to  restore  him,  and  in  a  short  time  he  came  to  life. 
The  same  evening  he  was  able  to  return  to  his  home.  On  the 
following  day  he  went  himself  to  the  authorities  to  annul  the 
record  of  his  supposed  death.'"  (P.  182.) 

M.  Gaubert  continues  : — "  We  have  collected  in 
Germany  fourteen  cases  of  apparent  death  followed  by 
return  to  life  in  mortuaries,  in  spite  of  all  that  has 
been  done  for  the  prevention  of  such  occurrences.'* 
(P.  182.) 


Dr.  E.  Bouchut,  in  "  Signes  de  la  Mort,"  third 
edition,  p.  50,  writes  :— 

"An  apothecary's  assistant  had  an  attack  of  syncope,  which 
continued  for  eight  days,  when  he  was  apparently  dead,  and  was 
removed  to  the  mortuary  of  the  Military  Hospital,  Cassel,  where  he 
was  covered  with  a  coarse  wrapper  and  left  amongst  the  dead. 
The  following  night  he  awoke  from  his  lethargy,  and,  on  recog- 
nising the  horrible  place  where  he  was,  dragged  himself  to  the 
door  and  kicked  against  it.  The  noise  was  heard  by  the  sentinel, 
aid  arrived,  and  the  patient  was  put  in  a  warm  bed,  where  he 

Dr.  Bouchut  says  that  if  he  had  been  swathed  in 
tight  bandages  his  efforts  at  release  would  have  been 
futile,  and  he  would  have  been  buried  alive. 


Dr.  Roger  S.  Chew,  of  Calcutta,  has  forwarded  the 
following  cases  to  the  author  as  the  results  of  his  own 
personal  experience : — 



"A  sowar — i.e.,  native  trooper — of  the  7th  regiment  of  cavalry, 
in  1878,  carrying  despatches  at  Nowshera,  was  thrown  from  his 
horse,  and,  falling  with  his  head  against  a  sharp  stone  in  the  road, 
rolled  on  his  back,  in  which  position  he  was  found  some  six  or 
seven  hours  after,  and  conveyed  to  the  mortuary  of  the  European 
Depot  Hospital  pending  removal  to  the  'lines'  of  his  own  corps. 
There  was  very  little  haemorrhage,  and  the  stone  was  still  wedged 
in  between  the  temporo-parietal  suture.  Cardiac  sounds  and 
respiratory  murmurs  could  not  be  detected.  The  limbs  were 
perfectly  rigid,  and  there  was  a  good  deal  of  cadaveric  ecchymosis 
to  be  distinctly  seen.  Nothing  would  have  convinced  anyone  that 
the  sowar  was  still  alive,  and  Surgeons-Major  Hunter,  Gibson,  and 
Briggs,  Apothecary  S.  Pollock,  Assistant-Surgeon  J.  Lewis,  and" 
myself,  verily  believed  he  was  stone-dead.  As  'cause  of  death'  is 
what  the  army  is  exceedingly  particular  about,  Surgeon- Major 
Hunter  removed  the  impacted  stone  and  lifted  out  portions  of  the 
fractured  bone  (prior  to  holding  a  proper  post-mortem\  when  to  the 
surprise  of  all  of  us  'the  corpse'  deliberately  closed  its  eyes  (which 
were  staring  open  when  the  body  was  first  brought  in),  and  there 
was  a  slight  serous  haemorrhage.  On  noticing  this,  the  sowar's 
head  was  trephined — no  chloroform  or  other  anaesthetic  being 
used — some  more  fragments  of  bone  and  a  large  blood-clot  that 
pressed  on  the  brain  were  removed,  and,  as  the  sowar  repeatedly 
flinched  under  this  operation,  a.  stimulant  was  poured  down  his 
throat,  and  he  was  removed  to  his  regimental  hospital,  from  which 
he  was  discharged  'well'  some  six  months  and  a  half  later.  After 
this  he  did  good  service  in  the  Afghan  and  Egyptian  campaigns." 

"Sergeant  J.  Clements  Twining,  of  H.M.'s  logth  regiment  of 
British  infantry,  located  at  Dinapoor  in  1876,  was  brought  in  an 
unconscious  state  to  the  hospital,  supposed  to  be  suffering  from 
coup  de  soleil.  Everything  that  could  be  done  was  ineffectually 
tried  to  rouse  him  from  coma,  and  he  was  removed  to  the  dead- 
house  to  wait  post-mortem  next  morning.  At  two  a.m.  the  sentry 
on  the  dead-house  came  rushing  down  to  the  dispensary  (about 
four  hundred  and  fifty  yards  off)  declaring  that  he  had  seen  and 
heard  a  ghost  in  the  dead-house,  to  which  myself  and  the  com- 
pounder  and  dresser  on  duty  at  once  proceeded,  to  find  that 
Clements  Twining,  who  was  now  partially  conscious,  was  lying  on 


the  dead-house  flags  groaning  most  piteously — he  had  rolled  off 
the  table  on  to  the  floor.  He  returned  to  health,  and  in  1877 
accompanied  his  regiment  to  England,  where  I  met  him  at 
Woolwich  in  1883,  and  he  asked  me  to  corroborate  his  story  of 
'returning  to  life'  to  certain  of  his  acquaintances  who  had  refused 
to  believe  him." 


A  correspondent  signing  himself  "  T.  E.  N.,"  in 
To-Day,  October  12,  1895,  says  :— 

"  When  acting  as  special  correspondent  to  the  Evening 
Herald  in  Hamburg  during  the  cholera  plague,  I  met  a  gentle- 
man v/ho  had  been  passed  for  dead  and  placed  in  the  mortuary 
to  await  burial.  When  the  porters  entered  some  hours  later  to 
remove  the  hundred  or  so  bodies,  they  found  this  gentleman 
sitting  up  in  great  pain,  and  very  much  frightened.  He  was 
placed  in  a  ward,  and  recovered. 

"About  the  same  time  a  little  girl  came  to  life  actually  at 
the  graveside.  She  had  been  brought  in  one  of  several  four- 
horse  vans  that  conveyed  bodies  for  interment  in  the  Ohlsdorff 
graveyard.  Fortunately  for  her,  she  had  not  been  placed  in  a 
coffin,  the  exigencies  of  the  time  rendering  it  impossible  to 
provide  caskets  for  the  dead.  When  the  disease  began  to  die 
out,  the  people  found  time  to  ask — '  Can  it  be  possible  that  life 
remains  in  any  of  the  bodies  buried?'  That  the  doctors  in  the 
latter  days  cut  the  ulnar  arteries  of  all  subjects  before  passing 
them  for  dead  is  full  of  significance." 


The  Undertakers'  Review,  January  22,  1894,  reports 
that  :— 

"  Lena  Fellows,  aged  twenty-two  years,  a  servant  in  the  employ 
of  A.  R.  Knox,  of  Buffalo,  fell  dead,  as  was  thought,  while  at 
work  on  December  8.  The  remains  were  taken  to  the  morgue 
in  a  coffin,  but  next  morning  when  Morgue-Keeper  M'Shane 
began  to  lift  the  supposed  corpse  into  the  refrigerator  he  found 
that  the  woman  was  alive.  It  was  a  case  of  catalepsy." 


Dr.  J.  M.  Duncan,  of  Kansas  City,  U.S.A.,  in  an 
instructive  article  in  the  Medical  Brief,  August,  1897, 
relates  the  following  remarkable  experiences  : — 

"In  1865  I  was  on  duty  in  a  United  States  field  hospital.  On 
May  15  a  soldier  in  one  of  the  hospitals  died.  His  body  was 
bathed,  prepared,  and  carried  to  the  mortuary.  At  daybreak 
next  morning  he  was  found  sitting  upright,  was  taken  back  to 
the  ward,  and  made  a  good  recovery.  This  soldier  said  that 
while  the  nurses  were  dressing  him  he  tried  to  kick  them,  and 
in  every  way  tried  to  make  them  know  he  was  not  dead  ;  but 
could  not  move.  All  night,  as  he  lay  in  the  dead-house,  he 
kept  trying  to  break  the  spell,  realising  fully  that  he  must  get 
a  move  on  him  or  be  buried  alive  next  day.  He  distinctly 
heard  everything  as  usual,  could  see  things  before  him,  and  his 
sense  of  feeling  was  perfectly  normal.  As  twilight  began  to 
appear  in  the  east,  he  was  feeling  chilly  and  felt  like  sneezing,  in 
the  effort  of  which  he  caught  his  breath,  and  raised  himself  up." 


The  following  incident  caused  a  great  deal  of 
comment  at  the  time,  and  suggested  to  many  that 
other  cases  of  suspended  animation  might  have  a 
less  fortunate  issue  : — 

"  Ernest  Wicks,  a  boy  two  years  old,  was  found  lying  on  the 
grass  in  Regent's  Park  apparently  dead,  and  resuscitated  in  St. 
Marylebone  Mortuary  (after  being  laid  out  on  a  slab  as  dead)  in 
September,  1895,  by  the  keeper,  Mr.  Ellis,  assisted  by  Mrs. 
Ellis.  When  the  doctor  arrived,  the  child  was  breathing  freely, 
though  still  insensible.  The  child  was  taken  to  the  Middlesex 
Hospital,  and  was  reported  by  the  surgeon  to  be  recovering 
from  a  fit." 

A   correspondent  writes   us   as   follows,  on   February 

27,    1903  :— 

"  The  husband  of  an  old  servant  of  ours  underwent  an  opera- 
tion in  the  Brompton  Hospital.  He  was  supposed  to  have  died, 


and  was  therefore  taken  to  the  mortuary.  Fortunately  for  him, 
he  gave  signs  of  life  before  being  buried,  and  is,  I  believe,  alive 

The  Progres  du  Nord,  April  2,   1 894,  reports : — 

"  M.  Vangiesen,  aged  eighty-one  years,  awakened  from 
supposed  death  on  the  flagstones  of  the  mortuary  at  the  Charite 
Hospital  at  Lille." 

H.  L.  Kerthomas,  in  "  Dernieres  Considerations  sur 
les  Inhumations  Precipitees,"  Lille,  1852,  p.  17,  relates 
'that  :— 

"At  a  hospital  in  Liege  two  house-surgeons  were  at  the 
* Salles  des  decades'  in  pursuance  of  their  anatomical  studies 
when,  hearing  at  one  side  of  them  a  noise  like  stifled  breathing, 
great  was  their  fear  !  Still,  they  coolly  finished  their  examination, 
and  then  discovered  the  supposed  corpse  moving  convulsively 
amongst  his  dead  companions  ;  but,  thanks  to  efficient  help,  he 
was  completely  restored  to  health.'''  (The  above  occurred  in 

Enough  evidence  has  been  given  to  justify  our 
contention  that  upon  every  ground — moral,  social, 
sanitarian,  humane,  and  economical — the  British  nation 
should  seriously  take  this  matter  up,  and  see  to  it  that 
Parliament  be  urged  to  pass,  without  further  delay,  a 
measure  which  shall  ordain  that  waiting  mortuaries  of 
the  character  we  have  described  be  erected  in  every 
sanitary  district  throughout  the  kingdom. 


IT  has  been  our  endeavour  to  present  in  a  concise 
form  the  salient  facts  connected  with  the  important 
subject  which  forms  the  title  of  this  work.  It  would 
have  been  easy  to  fill  a  much  larger  volume  than  this 
with  reports  of  authentic  cases  of  premature  burial 
and  narrow  escapes  from  such  terrible  mischances,  and 
with  more  detailed  results  of  the  authors'  researches  on 
the  subject  in  various  parts  of  Europe  and  America,  as 
well  as  in  the  East.  The  cases  adduced  to  illustrate 
the  text  are,  however,  presented  as  types  of  hundreds 
of  others  obtainable  from  equally  reputable  sources, 
and  to  be  found  in  the  works  of  various  trustworthy 
authorities,  the  titles  of  which  can  be  seen  in  the 
Bibliography  at  the  end  of  this  volume. 

We  herewith  append  a  summary  of  the  chief  points 
we  have  presented,  and  which  we  have  sought  to  sub- 
stantiate as  far  as  the  limited  space  will  allow: — 

1 i )  Death  -  Counterfeits.  —  That     trance,     catalepsy, 
and    other    forms    of    death-counterfeit,    arising    from 
exhausting    illnesses   and   diseases,   from   loss   of  blood 
and  various  nervous  derangements,  from  extreme  con- 
ditions of  temperature,  drugs,  drowning,  still-birth,  etc., 
are   of  such   mysterious    and    deceptive    character   that 
we  are  led   to  the  conclusion  that  they  may  easily  be 
mistaken  for  real  death. 

(2)  Tragic   Results. — That    mistakes   of  this   nature 
have  occurred  in  numerous  instances.      That  not  only 


have  persons  been  buried  alive,  as  proved  by  subsequent 
exhumations,  but  that  in  many  instances,  in  this  and 
other  countries,  many  have  revived  after  having  been 
supposed  to  be  dead  by  their  relatives  and  attendant 

(3)  Justifiable   Fear, — That   a   natural    dread   exists 
in    the    minds    of    many    persons   lest  they   should   fall 
victims    to    such    a    terrible    mistake.       That    this    has 
been  evidenced  by  the  numerous  directions  laid  down 
in    the    wills    of   perfectly    sane    and    even    of   notable 
persons,  which   provide  against  any  possible  resuscita- 
tion  in   the  hopeless   tomb.      That   this  fear  has   been 
likewise  manifested   by  the  offer  of  substantial   prizes 
by    scientists    and    by   learned    societies    for    the    most 
approved    method    of   diagnosing    between    latent    life 
and   actual   death.      That  the  dread    has   been   further 
shown  by  the  several  inventions,  such  as  safety  coffins 
and    safety  graves,  which   have   been    seized    upon    by 
the  public   in   the   hope  of  protecting   them   from   the 
most  awful  of  all  deaths. 

(4)  Legal  Hindrances. — That  the  formalities  associ- 
ated   with    the   disinterment   of  a    body,    or   even    the 
opening   of  a    coffin,  whether   in    England    or   abroad, 
and     the     slavish     acceptance     of    and     obedience    to 
medical     certification     given     under     exceedingly     lax 
conditions,  are  fraught  with   dangerous   possibilities  to 
the  living  and  to  the  apparently  dead. 

(5)  Special    Risks. — That    the    risk    of    premature 
burial    is   especially  serious    in    France,   in    Spain    and 
Portugal,   in    the   west   of   Ireland,  in    both    European 


and  Asiatic  Turkey,  and  in  India  ;  also  among  the 
Jews,  where  both  the  Jewish  law  and  ancient  custom 
enjoin  burial  within  a  few  hours  of  death,  and  for 
similar  reasons  in  all  oriental  countries,  and  in  the 
Southern  States  of  North  America. 

(6)  Illusory    Nature    of   Death    Signs.  —  That    the 
various    signs    which    are    supposed   to    indicate   death, 
such    as    the    cessation    of  respiration    and    of  cardiac 
action,    a    pale,    waxy,    and     death-like    appearance,    a 
stiffening    of  the   limbs,    or    rigor   mortis,    insensibility 
to    cutaneous    excitation,   the    departure    of  heat    from 
the    body,    are    singly    and    collectively    illusory  ;    the 
only  safe    and    infallible    test    of  dissolution   being  the 
manifestation  of  putrefaction  in  the  abdomen. 

(7)  Death-Certificates. — That  the  present  method  of 
granting    a    death-certificate    in    this    country    is    most 
unsatisfactory,    seeing    that    the    medical    attendant    is 
relieved    from    the    necessity  of  viewing    the   supposed 
dead    before    giving    it,    and    that    every    year    some 
ten    thousand    death-certificates    are    accepted    by    the 
Registrar- General   in   which   the   cause  of  death   is  not 
even    stated.       If    the     legislature     enacted     that    the 
certifying  medical  man  shall  in  every  instance  examine 
the  body  of  the    alleged   dead   person,  and   shall  state 
upon  his  certificate  the  grounds  upon  which   he  bases 
his  judgment,  as  the  result  of  such  personal  examina- 
tion   (for    which     a     small     fee,    as     in    the     case    of 
notification,  might   be   paid    by   the   local   authority),  a 
greater    safeguard    of  life    would    be    ensured    than    is 
possible    under  the    lax    system  which    at   the   present 
time  is  allowed  by  law. 


(8)  Definite   Medical    Training. — That  there  should 
be    systematic    medical    instruction    (which    does    not 
exist  at  the  present  time)  during   the  course  of  train- 
ing   at    our    medical    schools    and    colleges    upon    the 
phenomena   of  trance,   catalepsy,    syncope,    and    other 
forms   of  suspended    animation  ;    and    that    knowledge 
of  definite   tests    necessary  to   the    prevention   of  pre- 
mature  burial    be   demanded    in    all    examinations    for 
medical  diplomas  and  degrees. 

(9)  A  Real  Danger. — That,  in  view  of  the  numerous 
authentic  instances  of  premature  coffinment,  premature 
burial,  and   narrow  escapes,  which  have  been  collected 
together,  we  are    forced   to  the    conclusion    that    these 
instances    can    but    represent   large   numbers    of   other 
cases  which  have  never  been,  and,   by  the  very  nature 
of  the  circumstances,  could  never  be,  brought  to  light. 

(10)  Other  Risks. — That  even  embalming,  dissecting, 
and  cremation  are  each  and  all  accompanied  by  risks 
to  life  unless  the  precaution  is  first  taken  of  ascertain- 
ing that  life  has  really  ceased  to  exist. 

(11)  The  Only  Real  Safeguard. — That  no   evidence 
of  death    is    really    satisfactory    except    that  which    is 
supplied    by    putrefaction,    usually    evidenced    by    the 
change   of  colour   in    the   abdomen.      That  to   ensure 
this    safeguard   waiting   mortuaries   should    be    erected 
by  every  sanitary  authority  in  the   kingdom  at  public 
expense,   such    as    are    provided    at    Munich,    Weimar, 
Stuttgart,    and    other    German    cities,    furnished    with 
every  appliance  for  resuscitation,  watched  by  qualified 
attendants,  and    in    telephonic    communication    with   a 


medical  superintendent,  who  shall  be  authorised  to 
grant  the  removal  of  the  body  to  the  cemetery  only 
when  the  fact  of  death  has  been  unequivocally  estab- 
lished by  the  sign  of  decomposition. 

(12)  An  Appeal. — If  the  foregoing  conclusions  are 
established,  and  we  believe  such  to  be  the  case,  the 
need  for  immediate  action  is  urgent  and  imperative, 
and  the  prompt  intervention  of  Parliament  should  be 
at  once  invoked.  May  we  hope  for  the  cordial  co- 
operation of  all  classes  and  all  sections  on  a  question 
on  which  the  whole  community  have  a  deep  and  vital 
interest,  and  on  which  procrastination  will  certainly  be 
fatal  to  some  of  its  members?  It  is  not  an  academic 
question,  but  one  of  the  gravest  practical  character, 
the  earnest  consideration  and  treatment  of  which 
cannot  be  neglected  with  impunity. 





FROM  the  time  of  Kornmann,  Terilli,  and  Zacchia  (see  Bibliography, 
seventeenth  century),  certain  notable  instances  have  been  cited  from 
old  authors  of  restoration  from  apparent  death  with  a  good  deal  of 
uniformity  in  essays  or  theses  on  this  subject.  One  of  the  most  con- 
venient (to  English  readers)  of  these  compilations  is  to  be  found  in  an 
anonymous  essay,  "The  Uncertainty  of  the  Signs  of  Death,"  Dublin, 
1748  (printed  by  George  Faulkner),  from  which  the  following  extracts 
are  taken  verbatim  : — 

Plutarch  informs  us  that  a  certain  person  fell  irom  an  eminence  but 
did  not  show  the  least  appearance  of  any  wound  ;  for,  three  days  after, 
he  suddenly  resumed  his  strength,  and  returned  to  life  as  his  friends 
were  conveying  him  to  the  grave. 

Asclepiades,  a  celebrated  physician,  on  his  return  from  his  country 
seat  met  a  large  company  conveying  a  corpse  to  the  grave.  A  principle 
of  curiosity  induced  him  to  ask  the  name  of  the  deceased  person ;  but 
grief  and  sorrow  reigned  so  universally  that  no  one  returned  him  answer ; 
upon  which,  approaching  the  corpse,  he  found  the  whole  of  it  rubbed 
over  Vfith  perfumes,  and  the  mouth  moistened  with  precious  balm, 
according  to  the  custom  of  the  Greeks ;  then  carefully  feeling  every  part, 
and  discovering  latent  signs  of  life,  he  forthwith  affirmed  that  the 
person  was  not  dead,  and  the  person  was  saved.  —  Celsus  ii.,  6,  "  De 
re  Medica." 

In  the  tenth  book  of  Plato's  "Republic"  is  related  the  story  of  one 
Er,  an  Armenian,  who  was  slain  in  battle.  Ten  days  after,  when  the 
surviving  soldiers  came,  with  a  view  to  inter  the  dead,  they  found  all 
the  bodies  corrupted  except  his ;  for  which  reason  they  conveyed  him 
to  his  own  house  in  order  to  inter  him  in  the  usual  manner.  But  two 


'  days  after,  to  the  great  surprise  of  all  present,  he  returned  to  life  when 
laid  on  the  funeral  pile.  Ouenstedt  remarks  upon  this  case,  which  he 
took  from  Kornmann's  treatise  "  De  Miraculis  Mortuorum,"  "that  the 
soul  sometimes  remains  in  the  body  when  the  senses  are  so  fettered, 
and,  as  it  were,  locked  up,  that  it  is  hard  to  determine  whether  a 
person  is  dead  or  alive."  Pliny  in  his  "Natural  History,"  book  vii., 
chap.  52,  which  treats  of  those  who  have  returned  to  life  when  they 
were  about  to  be  laid  in  the  grave,  tells  us  that  Acilius  Aviola,  a  man 
of  so  considerable  distinction  that  he  had  formerly  been  honoured  with 
the  consulship,  returned  to  life  when  he  was  upon  the  funeral  pile  ;  but 
as  he  could  not  be  rescued  from  the  violence  of  the  flames  he  was 
burnt  alive.  The  like  misfortune  also  happened  to  Lucius  Lamia,  who 
had  been  praetor.  These  two  shocking  accidents  are  also  related  by 
Valerius  Maximus.  Celius  Tubero  had  a  happier  fate  than  his  two 
fellow-citizens,  since,  according  to  Pliny,  he  discovered  the  signs  of  life 
before  it  was  too  late.  liis  state,  however,  was  far  from  eligible,  since, 
being  laid  on  the  funeral  pile,  he  stood  a  fair  chance  of  being  exposed 
to  the  like  misfortune.  Pliny,  from  the  testimony  of  Varro,  adds  that 
when  a  distribution  of  land  was  making  at  Capua,  a  certain  man,  when 
carried  a  considerable  way  from  his  own  house  in  order  to  be  interred, 
returned  home  on  foot.  The  like  surprising  accident  also  happened  at 
Aquinum.  The  last  instance  of  this  nature  related  by  the  author 
occurred  at  Rome,  and  Pliny  must,  no  doubt,  have  been  intimately 
acquainted  with  all  its  most  minute  circumstances,  since  the  person 
was  one  Cerfidius,  the  husband  of  his  mother's  sister,  who  returned  to 
life  after  an  agreement  had  been  made  for  his  funeral  with  the  under- 
taker, who  was  probably  much  disappointed  when  he  found  him  alive 
and  in  good  health. 

These  examples  drawn  from  Roman  history  greatly  contribute  to 
establish  the  uncertainty  of  the  signs  of  death,  and  ought  to  render  us 
very  cautious  with  respect  to  interments. 

Greece  and  Italy  are  not  the  only  theatres  in  which  such  tragical 
events  have  been  acted,  since  other  countries  of  Europe  also  furnish  us 
with  instances  of  a  like  nature.  Thus,  Maximilian  Misson,  in  his 
"Voyage  Through  Italy,"  tome  i.,  letter  5,  tells  us — 

"  That  the  number  of  persons  who  have  been  interred  as  dead,  when 
they  were  really  alive,  is  very  great  in  comparison  with  those  who  have 
been  happily  rescued  from  their  graves ;  for,  in  the  town  of  Cologne, 
Archbishop  Geron — according  to  Albertus  Krantzius — was  interred  alive, 
and  died  for  want  of  seasonable  releasement." 


It  is  also  certain  that  in  the  same  town  the  like  misfortune  happened 
to  Johannes  Duns  Scotus,  who  in  his  grave  tore  his  hands  and  wounded 
his  head.  Misson  also  relates  the  following : — 

"  Some  years  ago  the  wife  of  one  Mr.  Mervache,  a  goldsmith  of  Poictiersr 
being  buried  with  some  rings  on  her  fingers,  as  she  had  desired  when  dying,  a 
poor  man  of  the  neighbourhood,  being  apprised  of  that  circumstance,  next 
night  opened  the  grave  in  order  to  make  himself  master  of  the  rings,  but  as 
he  could  not  pull  them  off  without  some  violence,  he  in  the  attempt  waked 
the  woman,  who  spoke  distinctly,  and  complained  of  the  injury  done  her. 
Upon  this,  the  robber  made  his  escape.  The  woman,  now  roused  from 
an  apoplectic  fit,  rose  from  her  coffin,  returned  to  her  own  house,  and 
in  a  few  days  recovered  a  perfect  state  of  health." 

What  induced  Misson  to  relate  these  histories  was  a  certain  piece. of 
painting  preserved  in  the  church  of  the  Holy  Apostles  at  Cologne,  in  order 
to  keep  up  the  memory  of  a  certain  accident,  which  that  traveller  relates 
in  the  following  manner  : — 

"In  the  year  1571,  the  wife  of  one  of  the  magistrates  of  Cologne 
being  interred  with  a  valuable  ring  on  one  of  her  fingers,  the  grave- 
digger  next  night  opened  the  grave  in  order  to  take  it  off,  but  we  may 
readily  suppose  that  he  was  in  no  small  consternation  when  the  sup- 
posed dead  body  squeezed  his  hand,  and  laid  fast  hold  of  him,  in  order 
to  get  out  of  her  coffin.  The  thief,  however,  disengaging  himself, 
made  his  escape  with  all  expedition  ;  and  the  lady,  disentangling  herself 
in  the  best  manner  she  could,  went  home  and  knocked  at  her  own  door, 
where,  after  shivering  in  her  shroud,  after  some  delay  she  was  admitted  by 
the  terror-stricken  servants  ;  and,  being  warmed  and  treated  in  a  proper 
manner,  completely  recovered." 

Simon  Goubart,  in  his  admirable  and  memorable  histories,  printed  at 
Geneva  in  1628,  relates  the  following  accident: — "A  lady,  whose  name 
was  Reichmuth  Adoloh,  was  supposed  to  fall  a  victim  to  a  pestilence,  which 
raged  with  such  impetuous  fury  as  to  cut  off  most  of  the  inhabitants  of 
Cologne.  Soon  after,  however,  she  not  only  recovered  her  health,  but 
also  brought  into  the  world  three  sons,  who,  in  process  of  time,  were 
advanced  to  livings  in  the  Church." 

"  The  town  of  Dijon,  in  Burgundy,  was,  in  the  year  1558,  afflicted  with 
a  violent  plague,  which  cut  off  the  inhabitants  so  fast  that  there  was  not 
time  for  each  dead  person  to  have  a  separate  grave ;  for  which  reason 
large  pits  were  made  and  filled  with  as  many  bodies  as  they  could  contain. 
In  this  deplorable  conjuncture,  Mrs.  Nicole  Tentillet  shared  the 
common  fate,  and  after  labouring  under  the  disorder  for  some  days,  fell 


into  a  syncope  so  profound  that  she  was  taken  for  dead,  and  accord- 
ingly buried  in  a  pit  with  the  other  dead  bodies.  The  next  morning 
after  her  interment  she  returned  to  life,  and  made  the  strongest  effiorts 
to  get  out,  but  was  held  down  by  the  weight  of  the  bodies  with  which 
she  was  covered.  She  remained  in  this  wretched  condition  for  four 
days,  when  the  grave-diggers  took  her  out  and  carried  her  to  her  own 
house,  where  she  recovered  perfectly."  Following  this  case,  that  of  a 
labouring  man  of  Courcelles,  near  Neuchfitel,  is  narrated.  He  fell  into 
so  profound  syncope  that  he  was  taken  for  dead  ;  but  the  persons  who 
were  putting  him  into  his  grave,  without  a  coffin,  perceived  some  motion 
in  his  shoulders,  for  which  reason  they  carried  him  to  his  own  home, 
where  he  perfectly  recovered.  This  accident  laid  the  foundation  for  his 
being  called  the  ghost  of  Courcelles. 

"A  lawyer  of  Vesoul,  a  town  of  Franche-Comte,  near  Besan9on,  so 
carefully  concealed  a  lethargy,  to  which  he  was  subject,  that  nobody 
knew  anything  of  his  disorder,  though  the  paroxysms  returned  very  fre- 
quently. The  motive  which  principally  induced  him  to  this  secrecy  was 
the  dread  of  losing  a  lady  to  whom  he  was  just  about  to  be  married. 
Being  afraid,  however,  lest  some  paroxysm  should  prove  fatal  to  him, 
he  communicated  his  case  to  the  sheriff  of  the  town,  who,  by  virtue  of 
his  office,  was  obliged  to  take  care  of  him  if  such  a  misfortune  should 
happen.  The  marriage  was  concluded,  and  the  lawyer  for  a  consider- 
able time  enjoyed  a  perfect  state  of  health,  but  at  last  was  seized  with 
so  violent  a  paroxysm  of  the  disease  that  his  lady,  to  whom  he  had 
not  revealed  the  secret,  not  doubting  his  death,  ordered  him  to  be  put 
in  his  coffin.  The  sheriff,  though  absent  when  the  paroxysm  seized 
him,  luckily  returned  in  time  to  preserve  him  ;  for  he  ordered  the  inter- 
ment to  be  delayed,  and  the  lawyer,  returning  to  life,  survived  the 
accident  sixteen  years." 

Another  case  is  that  of  a  certain  person  who  was  conveyed  to  the 
church  in  order  to  be  interred,  but  one  of  his  friends  sprinkling  a  large 
quantity  of  holy  water  on  his  face,  which  was  covered,  he  not  only 
returned  to  life,  but  also  resumed  a  perfect  state  of  health. 

This  writer  subjoins  other  histories  of  persons  who,  being  interred 
alive,  have  expired  in  their  graves  and  tombs,  as  has  afterwards  been 
discovered  by  various  marks  made,  not  only  in  their  sepulchres,  but 
also  in  their  own  bodies.  He  in  a  particular  manner  mentions  a  young 
lady  of  Auxbourg,  who,  falling  into  a  syncope,  in  consequence  of  a 
suffocation  of  the  matrix,  was  buried  in  a  deep  vault,  without  being 
covered  with  earth,  because  her  friends  thought  it  sufficient  to  have  the 


vault  carefully  shut  up.  Some  years  after,  however,  one  of  the  family 
happened  to  die ;  the  vault  was  opened,  and  the  body  of  the  young  lady 
found  on  the  stairs  at  its  entry,  without  any  fingers  on  the  right  hand. 
It  is  recorded  in  "Tr.  de  Acre  et  Alim.  defect.,"  cap.  vii.,  that  a 
certain  woman  was  hanged,  and  in  all  appearances  was  dead,  who  was 
nevertheless  restored  to  life  by  a  physician  accidentally  coming  in  and 
ordering  a  plentiful  administration  of  sal  ammoniac. 

Another  case  of  hanging  is  the  story  of  Anne  Green,  executed  at 
Oxford,  December  14,  1650.  She  was  hanged  by  the  neck  for  half  an  hour, 
some  of  her  friends  thumping  her  on  the  breast,  others  hanging  with  all 
their  weight  upon  her  legs,  and  then  pulling  her  down  again  with  a 
sudden  jerk,  thereby  the  sooner  to  despatch  her  out  of  her  pain.  After 
she  was  in  her  coffin,  being  observed  to  breathe,  a  lusty  fellow  stamped 
w'ith  all  his  force  on  her  breast  and  stomach  to  put  her  out  of  pain.  But 
by  the  assistance  of  Dr.  Petty,  Dr.  Willis,  Dr.  Bathurst,  and  Dr.  Clark, 
she  was  again  brought  to  life. 

Kornmann,  in  his  treatise  "  De  Miraculis  Mortuorum,"  relates  the 
following  history: — "Saint  Augustine,  from  Saint  Grille,  informs  us  that 
a  cardinal  of  the  name  of  Andrew,  having  died  in  Rome  in  the  presence 
of  several  bystanders,  was  next  day  conveyed  to  the  church,  where  the 
Pope  and  a  body  of  the  clergy  attended  service  in  order  to  do  honour  to 
his  memory.  But  to  their  great  surprise,  after  some  groans,  he  recovered 
his  life  and  senses.  This  event  was  at  the  time  looked  upon  as  a  miracle, 
and  ascribed  to  Saint  Jerome,  to  whom  the  cardinal  was  greatly 

The  following  account  seems  more  to  resemble  a  miracle,  though  we  do 
not  find  that  it  was  looked  upon  as  such: — "  Gocellinus,  a  young  man, 
and  nephew  to  one  of  the  Archbishops  of  Cologne,  falling  into  the 
Rhine,  was  not  found  for  fifteen  days  after,  but  was  discovered  to  be 
alive  as  he  lay  before  the  shrine  of  Saint  Guibert." 

Persons  curious  or  incredulous  upon  the  dangers  of  precipitate  burials 
may,  for  their  satisfaction,  have  recourse  to  the  medical  observations  of 
Forestus ;  those  of  Amatus  Lusitanus;  the  chirurgical  observations  of 
William  Fabri ;  the  treatise  of  Levinus  Lemnius  on  the  secret  miracles 
of  Nature ;  the  observations  of  Schenkins  ;  the  medico-legal  questions  of 
Paul  Zacchias  ;  Albertinus  Bottonus's  treatise  of  the  Disorders  of  Women  ; 
Terilli's  treatise  on  the  Causes  of  Sudden  Death  ;  Lancisi's^reatise  Con- 
cerning Deaths,  and  Kornmann's  treatise  on  the  Miracles  of  the  Dead. 
These  authors  furnish  us  with  a  great  variety  of  the  most  palpable  and 
flagrant  instances  of  the  uncertainty  of  the  signs  of  death. 


Physicians  of  the  earlier  ages  knew  that  there  were  disorders  which  so 
locked  up  or  destroyed  the  external  senses  that  the  patients  labouring 
under  them  appeared  to  be  dead.  According  to  Mr.  Le  Clerc,  in  his 
"  History  of  Medicine,"  Diogenes  Laertius  informs  us  "that  Empedocles 
was  particularly  admired  for  curing  a  woman  supposed  to  be  dead,  though 
that  philosopher  frankly  acknowledged  that  her  disorder  was  only  a 
suffocation  of  the  matrix,  and  affirmed  that  the  patient  might  live  in  that 
state  (the  absence  of  respiration)  for  thirty  days." 

Mr.  Le  Clerc,  in  the  work  already  quoted,  tells  us  that  "  Heraclides 
of  Pontus  wrote  a  book  concerning  the  causes  of  diseases,  in  which  he 
affirmed  that  in  certain  disorders  a  patient  is  without  respiration  for 
thirty  days,  and  that  they  appeared  dead  in  every  respect,  except  cor- 
ruption of  the  body." 

To  these  authorities  we  may  add  that  of  Pliny,  who,  after  mentioning 
the  lamentable  fate  of  Aviola  and  Lamia,  affirms — "  That  such  is  the 
condition  of  humanity,  and  so  uncertain  the  judgment  men  are  capable 
of  forming  of  things,  that  even  death  itself  is  not  to  be  trusted  to." 

Colerus,  in  "  Oeconom,"  part  vi. ,  lib.  xviii,,  cap.  113,  observes — 
"  That  a  person  as  yet  not  really  dead  may,  for  a  long  time,  remain 
apparently  in  that  state  without  discovering  the  least  signs  of  life;  and 
this  has  happened  in  the  times  of  the  plague,  when  a  great  many  persons 
interred  have  returned  to  life  in  their  graves."  Authors  also  inform  us 
that  the  like  accident  frequently  befalls  women  seized  with  a  suffocation 
of  the  matrix  (hysteria). 

Forestus,  in  "  Obs.  Med.,"  1.  xvii.,  obs.  9,  informs  us — "That  drowned 
persons  have  returned  to  life  after  remaining  forty-eight  hours  in  the 
water ;  and  sometimes  women,  buried  during  a  paroxysm  of  the  hysteric 
passion,  have  returned  to  life  in  their  graves  ;  for  which  reason-  it  is 
forbidden  in  some  countries  to  bury  the  dead  sooner  than  seventy- two 
hours  after  death."  This  precaution  of  delaying  the  interment  of  persons 
thought  to  be  dead  is  of  a  very  ancient  date,  since  Plato  ordered  the 
bodies  of  the  dead  to  be  kept  till  the  third  day,  in  order  to  be  satisfied 
of  the  reality  of  death. 

The  burial  customs  of  the  ancients  often  included  steps  that  were 
taken  as  a  precaution  against  mistaking  the  living  for  the  dead.  Indeed 
the  fear  of  such  an  accident  seems  to  have  always  been  entertained  as 
a  thing  liable  to  occur  in  every  case  of  seeming  death.  The  embalming 
process  employed  by  the  Egyptians  was  a  surgical  test  of  the  kind. 
The  abdomen  was  first  opened  in  order  to  remove  the  intestines,  and 
some  startling  experiences  must  have  been  had  in  consequence  of  the 


incisions  required  for  this  operation,  because  it  was  customary  for  the 
friends  and  relatives  of  the  deceased  to  throw  stones  at  the  persons- 
employed  in  embalming  as  soon  as  the  work  was  over,  owing  to  the 
horror  with  which  they  were  struck  upon  witnessing  what  must  have 
been  at  times  a  cruel  proceeding. 

The  funeral  ceremonies  used  in  the  Caribbee  Islands  are,  in  a  great 
measure,  conformable  to  reason.  They  wash  the  body,  wrap  it  up  in  a 
cloth,  and  then  begin  a  series  of  lamentations  and  discourses  calculated 
to  recall  the  deceased  to  life,  by  naming  all  the  pleasures  and  privileges 
he  has  enjoyed  in  the  world,  saying  over  and  over  again,  "How  comes 
it,  then,  that  you  have  died?"  When  the  lamentations  are  over,  they 
place  the  body  on  a  small  seat,  in  a  grave  about  four  or  five  feet  deep, 
and  for  ten  days  present  aliments  to  it,  entreating  it  to  eat.  Then, 
convinced  that  it  would  neither  eat  nor  return  to  life,  they,  for  its 
obstinacy,  throw  the  victuals  on  its  head,  and  cover  up  the  grave.  It 
is  evident  from  the  practices  of  this  people  that  they  wait  so  long  before 
they  cover  the  body  with  earth  because  they  have  had  instances  of 
persons  recalled  to  life  by  these  measures. 

Lamentations  of  a  similar  kind  were  employed  by  the  Jews  and 
Romans,  as  well  as  by  the  ancient  Prussians  and  the  inhabitants  of 
Servia,  founded  doubtless  upon  similar  experiences. 

The  Thracians,  according  to  Herodotus,  kept  their  dead  for  only  three 
days,  at  the  end  of  which  time  they  offered  up  sacrifices  of  all  kinds, 
and,  after  bidding  their  last  adieu  to  the  deceased,  either  burned  or 
interred  their  bodies. 

According  to  Quenstedt,  the  ancient  Russians  laid  the  body  of  the 
dead  person  naked  on  a  table,  and  washed  it  for  an  hour  with  warm 
water.  Then  they  put  it  into  a  bier,  which  was  set  in  the  most  public 
room  in  the  house.  On  the  third  day  they  conveyed  it  to  the  place  of 
interment,  where,  the  bier  being  opened,  the  women  embraced  the  body 
with  great  lamentations.  Then  the  singers  spent  an  hour  in  shouting 
and  making  a  noise  in  order  to  recall  it  to  life ;  after  which  it  was  let 
down  into  the  grave  and  covered  with  earth.  So  that  this  people  used 
the  test  of  warm  water,  that  of  cries,  and  a  reasonable  delay,  before 
they  proceeded  to  the  interment. 

In  the  laws  and  history  of  the'  Jews  there  is  but  one  regulation  with 
respect  to  interment  (in  the  twenty-first  chapter  of  Deuteronomy),  where 
the  Jewish  legislator  orders  persons  hanged  to  be  buried  the  same  day. 
From  this  one  is  led  to  infer  that  the  funeral  ceremonies,  as  handed 
down  from  Adam,  were  otherwise  perfect  and  unexceptionable.  The 
25  - 


bier  used  by  the  Jews,  on  which  the  body  was  laid,  was  not  shut  at  the 
top,  as  our  coffins  are,  as  is  obvious  from  the  resurrection  of  the  widow's 
son  of  Nain,  recorded  in  the  seventh  chapter  of  Luke,  where  these 
words  occur: — "And  he  came  and  touched  the  bier,  and  they  that  bare 
him  stood  still.  And  he  said,  Young  man,  I  say  unto  thee,  Arise  ;  and 
he  that  was  dead  sat  up  and  began  to  speak." 

Gierus  and  Calmet  inform  us  that  the  body,  before  its  interment,  lay 
for  some  days  in  the  porch  or  dining-room  of  the  house.  According 
to  Maretus,  it  was  probably  during  this  time  that  great  lamentations 
were  made,  in  which  the  name  of  the  deceased  was  intermixed  with 
mournful  cries  and  groans. 

Mr.  Boyer,  member  of  the  Faculty  at  Paris,  observes  that  such 
lamentations  are  still  used  by  the  Eastern  Jews,  and  even  by  the  Greeks 
who  embrace  the  articles  of  the  Greek  Church.  These  people  hire 
women  to  weep  and  dance  by  turns  round  the  body  of  the  dead  person, 
whom  they  interrogate  with  respect  to  the  reasons  they  had  for  dying. 

Lanzoni,  a  physician  of  Ferrara,  informs  us  that  "  when  any  person 
among  the  Romans  died,  his  nearest  relatives  closed  his  mouth  and 
eyes,  and  when  they  saw  him  ready  to  expire  they  caught  his  last  words 
and  sighs.  Then  calling  him  aloud  three  times  by  his  name,  they  bade 
him  an  eternal  adieu."  This  ceremony  of  calling  the  name  of  the  dying 
person  was  called  Conclamation,  a  custom  that  dates  prior  to  the 
foundation  of  Rome,  and  was  only  abolished  with  paganism. 

Propertius  acquaints  us  with  the  effect  they  expected  from  the  first 
Conclamation — since  there  were  several  of  them.  He  introduces  Cynthia 
as  saying,  "Nobody  called  me  by  my  name  at  the  time  my  eyes  were 
closing,  and  I  should  have  enjoyed  an  additional  day  if  you  had 
recalled  me  to  life." 

Conclamations  were  made  also  by  trumpets  and  horns,  blown  upon 
the  head,  into  the  ears,  and  upon  the  neck  and  chest,  so  as  to  penetrate 
all  the  cavities  of  the  body,  into  which,  as  the  ancients  imagined,  the 
soul  might  possibly  make  her  retreat. 

Quenstedt  and  Casper  Barthius,  in  "Advers.,"  lib.  xxxvii.,  ch.  17, 
tells  us  that  it  was  customary  among  the  ancients  to  wash  the  bodies 
of  their  dead  in  warm  water  before  they  burned  them,  "that  the  heat 
of  the  water  might  rouse  the  languid  principle  of  life  which  might 
possibly  be  left  in  the  body." 

By  warm  water  we  are  to  understand  boiling  water,  as  is  obvious 
from  the  copious  steam  arising  from  the  vessel  represented  in  pieces 
of  statuary  in  such  instances  :  as  also  from  the  Sixth  Book  of  Virgil's 


"/Eneid" — "Some  of  the  companions  of  ^Eneas,  with  boiling  water 
taken  from  brazen  vessels,  wash  the  dead  body,  and  then  anoint  it." 

"  A  correspondent  of  the  late  Dr.  Hawes  assures  us  that  there  was 
then  living  in  Hertfordshire  a  lady  of  an  ancient  and  honourable  family 
whose  mother  was  brought  to  life  after  interment  by  the  attempt  of  a 
thief  to  steal  a  valuable  ring  from  her  finger.  (See  Reports  of  the 
Royal  Humane  Society  for  1787-88-89,  p.  77.)  Whether  it  was  the 
same  or  not  I  cannot  say,  but  Lady  Dryden,  who  resided  in  the 
southern  part  of  Northamptonshire,  in  consequence  of  some  such  event 
having  occurred  in  her  family,  expressly  directed  in  her  will  that  her 
body  should  have  the  throat  cut  across  previous  to  interment  ;  and  to 
secure  this  bequeathed  fifty  pounds  to  an  eminent  physician,  who 
actually  performed  it."— Dr.  Curry's  "Observations  on  Apparent  Death," 
p.  1 06. 

Dr.  Elliotson  refers  to  a  case  of  a  female  who  was  pronounced  to  be 
dead.  Her  pulse  could  not  be  felt,  and  she  was  put  into  a  coffin  ;  and 
as  the  coffin  lid  was  being  closed  they  observed  a  sweat  break  out,  and 
thus  saw  that  she  was  alive.  She  recovered  completely,  and  then  stated 
that  she  had  been  unable  to  give  any  signs  of  life  whatever  ;  that  she 
was  conscious  of  all  that  was  going  on  around  her ;  that  she 
heard  everything  ;  and  that,  when  she  found  the  coffin  lid  about  to  be 
put  on,  the  agony  was  dreadful  beyond  all  description,  so  that  it 
produced  the  sweat  seen  by  the  attendants. 


In  two  cases  related  by  the  late  Mr.  Braid,  of  Manchester,  "the 
patients  remained  in  the  horrible  condition  of  hearing  various  remarks 
about  their  death  and  interment.  All  this  they  heard  distinctly  without 
having  the  power  of  giving  any  indication  that  they  were  alive,  until 
some  accidental  abrupt  impression  aroused  them  from  their  lethargy,  and 
rescued  them  from  their  perilous  situation.  On  one  of  these  occasions, 
what  most  intensely  affected  the  feelings  of  the  entranced  subject,  as 
she  afterwards  communicated  to  my  informant,  was  hearing  a  little 
sister,  who  came  into  the  room  where  she  was  laid  out  for  dead,  exulting 
in  the  prospect,  in  consequence  of  her  death,  of  getting  possession  of  a 
necklace  of  the  deceased."  In  another  instance,  the  patient  remained  in 
a  cataleptic  condition  for  fourteen  days.  During  this  period  the  visible 
signs  of  vitality  were  a  slight  degree  of  animal  heat  and  appearance  of 
moisture  when  a  mirror  was  held  close  to  her  face.  But  although  she 


had  no  voluntary  power  to  give  indication  by  word  or  gesture,  never- 
theless she  heard  and  understood  all  that  was  said  and  proposed  to  be 
done,  and  suffered  the  most  exquisite  torture  from  various  tests  applied 
to  her.  .  .  .  There  is  hardly  a  more  interesting  chapter  in  the 
records  of  medical  literature  than  the  history  of  well-authenticated  cases 
of  profound  lethargy  or  death-trance.  Most  of  the  reported  cases  in 
which  persons  in  a  state  of  trance  are  stated  to  have  been  consigned  to- 
the  horrors  of  a  living  burial  may  possibly  be  apocryphal.  Still,  on 
the  other  hand,  there  are  unquestionably  too  many  well-substantiated 
instances  of  the  actual  occurrence  of  this  calamity,  the  horrors  of  which 
no  effort  of  the  imagination  can  exaggerate,  and  for  the  prevention  of 
which  no  pains  can  be  excessive  and  no  precaution  superfluous. 

The  following  is  taken  from  "Memorials  of  the  Family  of  Scott,  ot 
Scott's  Hall,  in  the  County  of  Kent,  with  an  Appendix  of  Illustrative 
Documents,"  by  James  Renat  Scott,  F.  S.  A.,  London,  1876,  page 
225  :— 

"  Robert  Scott,  Esq.,  tenth  (but  sixth  surviving)  son  of  Sir  Thomas 
Scott,  of  Scott's  Hall,  Knight,  married  Priscilla,  one  of  the  daughters 
of  Sir  Thomas  Honywood,  of  Elmsmere,  Knight,  by  whom  he  had  nine 
children.  Remarkable  accidents  happened  to  the  said  Robert  Scott 
and  Priscilla,  his  wife,  before  their  marriage,  at  their  marriage,  and 
after  their  marriage,  before  they  had  children.  At  their  marriage, 
which  was  in  or  about  the  year  1610,  the  said  Robert  Scott  having 
forgot  his  wedding  ring  when  they  were  to  be  married,  the  said  Priscilla 
was  married  with  a  ring  with  death's  head  upon  it. 

"Within  a  short  time  after  they  were  married  the  said  Robert  Scott, 
and  Priscilla,  his  wife,  sojourning  with  Sir  Edward  at  Austenhanger, 
the  said  Robert  Scott,  about  Bartholomewtide,  fell  sick  of  a  desperate 
malignant  fever,  and  was  given  over  for  dead  by  all,  insomuch  as  that 
he  was  laid  forth,  the  pillows  pulled  from  under  him,  the  curtains 
drawn,  and  the  chamber  windows  set  open,  and  ministers  spoke  to  to 
preach  the  funeral  service,  and  a  book  called  for  his  funeral  that  was 
to  have  been  kept  at  Scott's  Hall,  where  Sir  John  Scott,  the  eldest 
brother,  then  lived.  At  night  he  was  watched  with  by  his  own  servant, 
named  Robins,  and  another  servant  in  the  house,  and  about  midnight 
they  sitting  together  by  the  fire  in  the  chamber,  the  said  Robins  said 
to  the  other,  '  Methinks  my  master  should  not  be  dead,  I  will  go  and 
try,'  and  presently  starting  up  went  to  the  bedside  where  his  master 
laid,  and  hallooed  in  his  ear,  and  laid  a  feather  to  his  nostrils,  and 
perceived  that  he  breathed,  upon  which  he  called  them  up  in  the  house, 


and  they  warmed  clothes  and  rubbed  him,  and  brought  him  to  lile 
again.  He  lived  afterwards  to  be  upwards  of  seventy-two  years  of  age, 
and  to  have  nine  children. 

' '  Another  remarkable  passage  was  that  his  wife,  Priscilla,  being  then 
very  sick  also,  they  told  her  that  he  was  dead.  She  answered  that  she 
did  not  believe  that  God  would  part  them  so  soon.  The  said  Priscilla, 
when  born,  was  laid  for  dead,  no  one  minding  her,  but  all  the  women 
Avent  to  help  her  mother,  who  was  then  like  to  die  after  her  delivery  ; 
but  at  last  an  old  woman,  taking  the  child  in  her  arms,  carried  it 
downstairs,  and  using  means,  brought  her  to  life.  The  other  women, 
missing  the  child,  and  hearing  the  old  woman  had  carried  her  down  to 
get  life  in  her,  laughed  at  her,  as  thinking  it  impossible  to  bring  the 
child  to  life ;  but  in  a  little  time  she  brought  it  into  the  chamber, 
to  the  amazement  of  them  all,  and  said  she  might  live  to  be  an  old 
woman;  and  so  she  did  to  the  age  of  fifty-two,  and  had  nine  children." 

The  following  cases  are  from  Mrs.  Crowe's  "  Night  Side  of  Nature," 
pp.  133-136:— 

"Dr.  Burns  mentions  a  girl  at  Canton  who  lay  in  a  trance,  hearing 
«very  word  that  was  said  around  her,  but  utterly  unable  to  move  a 
finger.  She  tried  to  cry  out  but  could  not,  and  supposed  that  she  was 
really  dead.  The  horror  of  finding  that  she  was  about  to  be  buried  at 
length  caused  a  perspiration  to  appear  on  her  skin,  and  she  finally 
revived.  She  described  that  she  felt  that  her  soul  had  no  power  to  act 
upon  her  body,  and  that  it  seemed  to  be  in  her  body  and  out  of  it  at 
the  same  time.'''' 

"Lady  Fanshawe  related  the  case  of  her  mother,  who,  being  sick  of  a 
fever,  her  friends  and  servants  thought  her  deceased,  and  she  lay  in  that 
state  for  two  days  and  a  night ;  but  Mr.  Winslow,  coming  to  comfort  my 
father,  went  into  my  mother's  room,  and  looking  earnestly  into  her  face, 
said,  '  She  was  so  handsome,  and  looked  so  lovely,  that  he  could  not 
think  her  dead,'  and  suddenly  taking  a  lancet  out  of  his  pocket  he  cut 
the  sole  of  her  foot,  which  bled  :  upon  this  he  immediately  caused  her 
to  be  removed  to  the  bed  again,  and  she  opened  her  eyes,  after  rubbing 
and  other  restorative  means,  and  came  to  life." 

"  On  the  loth  of  January,  1717,  Mr.  John  Gardner,  a  minister  at  Elgin, 
fell  into  a  trance,  and  being  to  all  appearances  dead,  he  was  put  into  a 
coffin,  and  on  the  second  day  was  carried  to  the  grave.  But  fortunately  a 
noise  being  heard,  the  coffin  was  opened,  and  he  was  found  alive  and 
taken  home  again,  where,  according  to  the  record,  *  he  related  many 
strange  and  amazing  things  which  he  had  seen  in  the  othe  world.'" 


Under  the  head  of  "Suspended  Animation:  Cases  of  Recovery,  etc.," 
the  Report  of  the  Royal  Humane  Society  for  1816-17,  PP-  48-50,  copies 

the  following  : — "  A  young  lady,  an  attendant  on  the  Prince?s  of , 

after  having  been  confined  to  her  bed  for  a  great  length  of  time  with  a 
violent  disorder,  was  at  last,  to  all  appearances,  deprived  of  life.  Her 
lips  were  quite  pale,  her  face  resembled  the  countenance  of  a  dead 
person,  and  her  body  became  cold. 

"She  was  removed  from  the  room  in  which  she  died,  was  laid  in  a 
coffin,  and  the  day  of  her  funeral  was  fixed  on.  The  day  arrived,  and, 
according  to  the  custom  of  the  country,  funeral  songs  and  hymns  were 
sung  before  the  door.  Just  as  they  were  about  to  nail  on  the  lid  of  the 
coffin  a  slight  perspiration  was  observed  to  appear  on  the  surface  of 
her  body.  It  grew  greater  every  moment,  and  at  last  a  kind  of  con- 
vulsive motion  was  observed  in  the  hands  and  feet  of  the  corpse.  A 
few  moments  after,  during  which  time  fresh  signs  of  returning  life 
appeared,  she  at  once  opened  her  eyes  and  uttered  a  pitiable  shriek. 
Physicians  were  quickly  procured,  and  in  the  course  of  a  few  days  she 
was  considerably  restored,  and  is  probably  alive  at  this  day." 

The  description  which  she  herself  gave  of  her  situation  is  extremely 
remarkable,  and  forms  a  curious  and  authentic  addition  to  psychology  : — 

"She  said  it  seemed  to  her,  as  if  in  a  dream,  that  she  was  really 
dead  ;  yet  she  was  perfectly  conscious  of  all  that  happened  around  her 
in  this  dreadful  state.  She  distinctly  heard  her  friends  speaking,  and 
lamenting  her  death  at  the  side  of  her  coffin.  She  felt  them  pull  on 
the  dead -clothes  and  lay  her  in  it.  This  feeling  produced  a  mental 
anxiety  which  was  indescribable.  She  tried  to  cry,  but  her  soul  was 
without  power  and  could  not  act  on  her  body.  She  had  the  contradictory 
feeling  as  if  she  were  in  her  body  and  yet  not  in  it  at  one  and  the 
same  time.  It  was  equally  impossible  for  her  to  stretch  out  her  arms, 
or  to  open  her  eyes,  or  to  cry.  The  internal  anguish  of  her  mind  was, 
however,  at  its  utmost  height  wrhen  the  funeral  hymns  began  to  be  sung 
and  w7hen  the  lid  of  the  coffin  was  about  to  be  nailed  on.  The  thought 
that  she  was  to  be  buried  alive  was  the  first  one  which  gave  activity 
to  her  soul,  and  caused  it  to  operate  on  her  corporeal  frame." 

Related  by  Dr.  Herz  in  the  "Psychological  Magazine,"  and  transcribed 
by  Sir  Alexander  Crichton  in  the  introduction  to  his  essay  on  "Mental 
Derangement."  (2  vols.,  Lond.,  1798.) 

"  One   of   the    most    frightful    cases    extant    is  that  of  Dr.   Walker,  of 
Dublin,  who   had  so  strong  a  presentiment  on  this   subject   that   he  had 


actually  written  a  treatise  against  the  Irish  custom  of  hasty  burial.  He 
himself  subsequently  died,  as  was  believed,  of  a  fever.  His  decease 
took  place  in  the  night,  and  on  the  following  day  he  was  interred. 
At  this  time  Mrs.  Bellamy,  the  once-celebrated  actress,  was  in  Ireland  ; 
and  as  she  had  promised  him,  in  the  course  of  conversation,  that  she 
would  take  care  he  should  not  be  laid  in  the  earth  till  unequivocal  signs 
of  dissolution  had  appeared,  she  no  sooner  heard  of  what  had  happened 
than  she  took  measures  to  have  the  grave  reopened ;  but  it  was 
unfortunately  too  late.  Dr.  Walker  had  evidently  revived,  and  had 
turned  upon  his  side  ;  but  life  was  quite  extinct." 

Mr.  Horace  Welby,  in  a  chapter  on  "  Premature  Interment,"  says 
that  "the  Rev.  Owen  Manning,  the  historian  of  Surrey,  during  his 
residence  at  Cambridge  University  caught  small-pox,  and  was  reduced 
by  the  disorder  to  a  state  of  insensibility  and  apparent  death.  The  body 
was  laid  out  and  preparations  were  made  for  the  funeral,  when  Mr. 
Manning's  father,  going  into  the  chamber  to  take  a  last  look  at  his 
son,  raised  the  imagined  corpse  from  its  recumbent  position,  saying,  '  I 
will  give  my  poor  boy  another  chance,'  upon  which  signs  of  vitality 
were  apparent.  He  was  therefore  removed  by  his  friend  and  fellow- 
student,  Dr.  Heberden,  and  ultimately  restored  to  health."— "  The  Mys- 
teries of  Life  and  Death,"  pp.  115,  116. 

A  most  conspicuous  and  interesting  monument  in  St.  Giles's  Church, 
Cripplegate,  London  (where  Cromwell  was  married  and  John  Milton 
buried),  is  associated  with  a  remarkable  case  of  trance  or  catalepsy. 
In  the  chancel  is  a  striking  sculptured  figure  in  memory  of  Constance 
Whitney,  a  lady  of  remarkable  gifts,  whose  rare  excellences  are  fully 
described  in  the  tablet.  She  is  represented  as  rising  from  her  coffin. 
Welby,  at  p.  116,  relates  the  story  that  she  had  been  buried  while  in  a 
state  of  suspended  animation,  but  was  restored  to  life  through  the 
cupidity  of  the  sexton,  which  induced  him  to  disinter  the  body  to 
obtain  possession  of  a  valuable  ring  left  upon  her  finger,  which  he 
concluded  could  be  of  no  use  to  the  wearer.  A  study  of  the  facts  of 
premature  burial  shows  that  the  rifling  of  tombs  and  coffins  to  obtain 
valuables  has  in  other  instances  revealed  similar  tragic  occurrences. 

The  often-cited  case  of  Mrs.  Goodman,  one  of  those  recalled  to  life 
by  the  sexton's  attempt  to  remove  a  ring  from  the  finger,  is  thus  related 
in  the  "  History  of  Bandon,"  by  George  Bennett  : — 

Hannah,  wife  of  Rev.  Richard  Goodman,  vicar  of  Ballymodan, 
Bandon,  from  1692  to  1737,  fell  into  ill-health,  and  apparently  died. 


Two  or  three  days  after  her  decease  the  body  was  taken  to  Rosscar- 
bery  Cathedral,  and  there  laid  in  the  family  vault  of  the  Goodmans. 
The  attempt  of  the  sexton  to  recover  a  valuable  diamond  ring  from  the 
finger  is  said  to  have  been  made  at  an  early  hour  the  next  morning. 
Much  violence  was  used,  so  that  the  corpse  moved,  yawned,  and 
sat  up.  The  sexton  having  fled  in  terror,  leaving  his  lantern  behind 
and  the  church  door  open,  the  lady  in  her  shroud  made  her  way  out 
of  the  vault  and  through  the  church  to  the  residence  of  her  brother-in- 
law,  the  Rev.  Thomas  Goodman,  which  was  just  outside  the  churchyard. 
Having  been  admitted,  after  some  delay  and  consternation,  she  was  put 
to  bed,  and  fell  asleep  soon  after,  her  brother-in-law  and  his  man-servant 
keeping  watch  over  her  until  midday,  when  she  awoke  refreshed.  She 
is  said  to  have  shown  herself  in  the  village  in  the  afternoon,  to  have 
supped  with  the  family  in  the  evening,  and  to  have  set  out  for  home 
on  horseback  next  morning.  She  is  said  to  have  survived  this  episode 
for  some  years,  and  to  have  borne  a  son  subsequent  to  it,  who  died  at 
an  advanced  age  at  Innishannon,  a  village  near  Bandon. 

In  Smith's  "History  of  Cork,"'  vol.  ii.,  p.  428,  the  same  incident  is 
thus  mentioned: — "Mr.  John  Goodman,  ot  Cork,  died  in  January, 
1747?  aged  about  fourscore  ;  but  what  is  remarkable  of  him,  his 
mother  was  interred  while  she  lay  in  a  trance,  having  been  buried  in 
a  vault,  etc.  .  .  .  This  Mr.  Goodman  was  born  some  time  after." 

Mr.  Peckard,  Master  ot  Magdalen  College,  Cambridge,  in  a  work 
entitled  "  Further  Observations  on  the  Doctrine  of  an  Intermediate 
State,"  mentions  that  Mrs.  Godfrey,  Mistress  of  the  Jewel  Office,  and 
sister  of  the  great  Duke  of  Marlborough,  is  stated  to  have  lain  in  a 
trance,  apparently  dead,  for  seven  days,  and  was  declared  by  her 
medical  attendants  to  have  been  dead.  Colonel  Godfrey,  her  husband, 
would  not  allow  her  to  be  interred,  or  the  body  to  be  treated  in  the 
manner  of  a  corpse  ;  and  on  the  eighth  day  she  awoke,  without  any 
consciousness  of  her  long  insensibility. 

The  daughter  of  Henry  Laurens,  of  South  Carolina,  the  first  President 
of  the  American  Congress  during  the  Revolutionary  War,  died  when 
young  of  small-pox.  At  all  events  a  medical  certificate  pronounced  her 
dead,  and  she  was  shrouded  and  coffined  for  interment.  It  was 
customary  in  those  days  to  confine  the  patient  amidst  red  curtains  with 
.closed  windows.  After  the  certificate  of  death  had  been  duly  made  out, 
the  curtains  were  thrown  back  and  the  windows  opened.  The  fresh  air 


revived  the  patient,  who  recovered  and  lived  to  a  mature  age.  This 
circumstance  occasioned  on  her  father  so  powerful  a  dread  of  living 
interment  that  he  directed  by  will  that  his  body  should  be  burnt,  and 
enjoined  on  his  children  the  performance  of  this  wish  as  a  sacred  duty. 

Bouchut,  in  his  "  Signes  de  la  Mort,"  p.  58,  relates  that  the  physician 
of  Queen  Isabella  of  Spain  was  treating  a  man  during  a  dangerous 
illness,  and  as  he  went  to  see  his  patient  one  morning  he  was  informed 
by  the  assistants  that  the  man  had  died.  He  entered,  and  found  the 
body,  in  the  habit  of  the  Order  of  St.  Francis,  laid  out  upon  a  board. 
Nothing  daunted,  he  had  him  put  back  to  bed  in  spite  of  the  ridicule 
of  those  present,  and  the  patient  soon  revived  and  fully  recovered. 

The  following  cases  are  from  Koppen  (see  Bibliography,   I799): — 

Vienna,  1791. — A  castle  guard  (portitr)  was  in  a  trance  for  several 
days.  His  funeral  was  prepared,  and  he  was  placed  in  a  coffin.  All 
at  once  he  unexpectedly  opened  his  eyes  and  called  out,  "  Mother, 
where  is  the  coffee?" 

Halle,  1753.— In  the  register  of  deaths  at  St.  Mary's  Church  is  the 
following  entry: — "Shoemaker  Casper  Koch  was  buried,  aged  eighty- 
one  years.  Thirty  years  ago  he  had  died,  to  all  appearances,  and  was 
put  in  a  coffin,  when  suddenly,  when  they  were  about  to  bury  him,  he 
recovered  his  consciousness." 

Haag,  Holland,  1785. — The  son  of  a  cook  died,  and  while  the  coffin 
was  being  carried  to  the  graveyard  he  was  heard  to  knock.  On 
opening  the  coffin  he  was  found  alive.  He  was  taken  home  and  was 

In  the  "  Cyclopaedia  of  Practical  Medicine,"  edited  by  John  Forbes, 
M.D.,  F.R.S.,  and  others,  1847,  vol.  i.,  pp.  548,  549,  is  the  following: — 
"A  remarkable  instance  of  resuscitation  after  apparent  death  occurred  in 
France,  in  the  neighbourhood  of  Douai,  in  the  year  1745,  and  is  related 
by  Rigaudeaux  (Journal  des  Sfavans,  1749,),  to  whom  the  case  was 
confided.  He  was  summoned  in  the  morning  to  attend  a  woman  in 
labour,  at  a  distance  of  about  a  league.  On  his  arrival  he  was 
informed  that  she  had  died  in  a  convulsive  fit  two  hours  previously. 
The  body  was  already  prepared  for  interment,  and  on  examination  he 
could  discover  no  indications  oi  life.  The  os  uteri  was  sufficiently 
-dilated  to  enable  him  to  turn  the  child  and  deliver  by  the  feet.  The 
child  appeared  to  be  dead  also ;  but  by  persevering  in  the  means  of 
resuscitation  for  three  hours  they  excited  some  signs  of  vitality,  which 
encouraged  them  to  proceed,  and  their  endeavours  were  ultimately 


crowned  with  complete  success.  Rigaudeaux  again  carefully  examined 
the  mother,  and  was  confirmed  in  the  belief  of  her  death  ;  but  he  found 
that,  although  she  had  been  in  that  state  for  seven  hours,  her  limbs 
retained  their  flexibility.  Stimulants  were  applied  in  vain  ;  he  took  his 
leave,  recommending  that  the  interment  should  be  deferred  until  the 
flexibility  was  lost.  At  five  p.m.  a  messenger  came  to  inform  him 
that  she  had  revived  at  half-past  three.  The  mother  and  child  were 
both  alive  three  years  after." 



THE  danger  of  premature  burial  of  still-born  (apparently  dead)  infants- 
is  clearly  shown  by  the  following  quotation  from  Tidy's  "  Legal 
Medicine,"  part  ii.,  page  253,  from  tables  given  on  the  authority  of 
the  British  and  Foreign  Medical  Review,  No.  ii.,  p.  235,  based  on 
eight  millions  of  births.  "  It  would  appear  that  from  one  in  eighteen 
to  one  in  twenty  births  are  still-born.  Dr.  Lever  found  that  the 
proportion  in  his  three  thousand  cases  was  one  in  eighteen.  So 
notorious  is  it  that  a  large  number  of  these  deaths  could  be  averted 
that  some  legislation  is  urgently  needed,  requiring  that  still-borns, 
whose  bodies  weigh,  say,  not  less  than  two  pounds  (the  average  weight 
about  the  sixth  and  seventh  months  at  which  children  are  viable), 
should  not  be  buried  without  registration  and  a  medical  examination." 

Many  instances  can  be  found  in  current  medical  literature  of  still-born 
infants  that  have  been  revived  by  artificial  respiration.  Such  cases  not 
infrequently  revive  without  any  means  being  employed  for  their 
resuscitation  ;  but  among  the  poor,  who  dispose  of  the  new-born 
apparently  dead  in  a  hasty  manner,  they  might  be  buried  alive  through 
carelessness.  The  use  of  mortuaries,  where  the  seeming  dead  would  be 
kept  under  observation  until  decomposition  appears,  would  of  course 
prevent  such  disasters. 

Struve,  in  the  essay  cited  in  the  Bibliography  (1802),  says: — 
"All    still-born    children    should    be    considered    as    only    apparently 
dead,  and  the  resuscitative  process  ought  never  to  be  neglected.     Some- 
times two  hours  or  more  will  elapse  before  reanimation  can  be  effected. 
An    ingenious    man-midwife,    says    Bruhier,    was    employed    for    several 

AND    OTHER    INFANTS.  387 

hours  in  the  revival  of  an  apparently  still-torn  child,  and  as  his 
endeavours  proved  unavailing,  he  considered  the  subject  really  dead. 
Being,  however,  accidentally  detained,  he  again  turned  his  attention  to 
the  child,  and  by  continuing  the  resuscitative  method  for  some  time  it 
was  unexpectedly  restored  to  life"  (p.  150). 

The  following  is  one  of  Struve's  most  striking  cases  : — 

A  Mr.  E. called  in  18 to  obtain  a  certificate  of  death  for  a 

still-born  child  of  seven  months'  gestation.  Arriving  at  the  house,  the 
doctor  found  the  child  laid  upon  a  little  straw  and  covered  with  a  slight 
black  shawl;  this  was  one  p.m.,  and  the  child  had  been  there  since 
five  a.m.  It  was  icy  cold,  and  there  was  no  heart  sound  nor 
respiration,  but  there  was  a  slight  muscular  twitching  over  the  region 
of  the  heart.  The  child  was  immersed  in  a  hot  bath  and  artificial 
respiration  employed,  but  for  twenty  minutes  the  case  seemed  hopeless  ; 
then  the  eyes  opened  and  after  continued  effort  the  respirations  began, 
laborious  and  interrupted  at  first,  then  normal  by  degrees.  The  child 
was  saved,  and  became  an  accomplished  violinist. 

The  mortality  and  waste  of  infant  life,  particularly  in  large  cities  like 
Paris,  London,  Berlin,  Vienna,  and  New  York,  is  admitted  by  all 
investigators  to  be  enormous.  In  France  medical  writers,  in  view  of 
the  small  percentage  of  births  to  population,  are  waking  up  to  the 
realisation  that  the  State  cannot  afford  the  loss,  and  that,  among  other 
things,  steps  should  be  taken  to  resuscitate  the  still-born,  so  that  none 
should  be  buried  before  unequivocal  signs  of  death  are  manifested.1 
The  premature  abandonmen  of  the  still-born  among  the  poorer  classes 
in  crowded  cities  is  only  too  probable.  There  are  also  cases  recorded 
which  show  a  corresponding  risk  to  infants  who  have  survived  their 
birth : — 

The  British  Medical  Journal ',  January  21,  1871,  p.  71,  gives  the 
following  case,  under  the  heading  "Alive  in  a  Coffin"  : — Stories  of  this 
kind  are  generally  very  apocryphal ;  but  the  following  reaches  us  from 
an  authentic  source.  A  child  narrowly  escaped  being  buried  alive  last 
week  in  Manchester.  The  infant's  father  had  died,  and  was  to  be 
buried  in  Ardwick  Cemetery.  The  day  before  the  burial  the  infant  was 
taken  ill,  and  apparently  died.  A  certificate  of  death  was  procured 
from  a  surgeon's  assistant  who  had  seen  the  child,  and,  to  save  expense, 

1  During  the  five  years  ending  1895  the  population  of  France,  where  of  all 
European  countries  premature  burial  is  most  in  vogue,  has  increased  by  only 
JSS-Sig,  or,  leaving  out  the  immigration  of  alien  population,  the  increase  is  under 
30,000.  The  population  for  all  practical  purposes  may  be  regarded  as  stationary. 


it  was  decided  to  place  it  in  the  same  coffin  with  the  father.  This 
was  done,  and  the  next  morning  the  bearers  set  off  to  the  cemetery 
with  their  double  burden  ;  but  before  reaching  the  graveyard  a  cry  was 
heard  to  issue  from  the  coffin.  The  lid  being  removed,  the  infant 
was  discovered  alive  and  kicking.  It  was  at  once  removed  to  a 
neighbour's  house,  but  died  eight  hours  afterwards. 

The  British  Medical  Journal,  1885,  ii.,  p.  841,  gives  the  following 
case,  under  the  heading  "Death  or  Coma?" 

"The  close  similarity  which  is  occasionally  seen  to  connect  the 
appearance  of  death  with  that  of  exhaustion  following  disease  was  lately 
illustrated  in  a  somewhat  striking  manner.  An  infant  seized  with  con- 
vulsions was  supposed  to  have  died  about  three  weeks  ago  at  Stamford 
Hill.  After  five  days'  interval,  preparations  were  being  made  for  its 
interment  when,  at  the  grave's  mouth,  a  cry  was  heard  to  come  from 
the  coffin.  The  lid  was  taken  off,  and  the  child  was  found  to  be  alive; 
it  was  taken  home,  and  is  recovering."' 

The  following  is  from  Tidy's  "Legal  Medicine,"  part,  i,  p.   29: — 

"  In  a  communication  to  the  French  Academy,  Professor  Fort  mentions 
a  child  (<cfat.  three)  having  been  resuscitated  by  artificial  respiration 
continued  for  four  hours,  and  not  commenced  until  three  and  a  half 
hours  after  its  apparent  decease. 

"  Ogston  records  one  case  of  a  child  alive  for  seven  hours,  and  a 
second  case  of  a  young  woman  alive  for  four  hours,  after  they  had  been 
left  as  dead." 

From  the  Lancet,  April  22.    1882,   p.   675  :  — 


"A  daily  contemporary  states  that  at  the  gates  of  the  Avignon 
cemetery  the  parents  of  a  child,  certified  to  have  died  of  croup,  insisted 
on  having  the  coffin  opened  to  take  a  last  look.  The  child  was  found 
breathing,  and  is  expected  to  be  saved." 

The  following  letter  to  the  editor  of  the  Lancet,  March  31,  1866,  p. 
360,  illustrates  the  danger  to  which  infants  believed  to  be  dead  are 
exposed  under  one  of  our  traditional  customs  : — 


"  Sir, — In  your  journal  of  last  Saturday,  among  the  '  Medical  Annota- 
tions,' you  notice  the  inquiry  into  the  circumstances  under  which  an 
infant,  being  still  living  and  moving,  was  '  bandaged '  beneath  the  chin, 
and  '  laid-out '  at  St.  Pancras  Workhouse.  Allow  me  to  state  that  in 

AND    OTHER    INFANTS.  389 

the  Lancet,  vol.  ii.,  1850,  a  contribution  from  me  'On  the  Danger  of 
Tying-up  the  Lower  Jaw  immediately  after  Supposed  Death'  was 
published.  An  infant,  aged  two  months,  was  brought  to  me  on  a 
Friday  with  the  lower  jaw  tied  up  by  its  mother,  who  asked  for  a 
certificate  of  death  ;  but  on  my  removing  the  bandage  the  child  began 
to  show  symptoms  of  vitality,  and  it  lived  until  the  following  Monday. 

C.  J.  B.  ALDIS,  M.D.,  F.R.C.P. 
"Chester  Terrace,  Chester  Square,  March  26,   1866." 

It  is  recorded  that  Dr.  Doddridge  showed  so  little  signs  of  life  at 
his  birth  that  he  was  laid  aside  as  dead,  but  one  of  the  attendants, 
observing  some  signs  of  life,  took  the  baby  under  her  charge,  and  by 
her  judicious  treatment  perfectly  restored  it. 

Mr.  Highmore,  Secretary  of  the  London  Lying-in  Hospital,  by  a 
communication  to  the  Royal  Humane  Society,  April,  1816,  confirmed 
the  statement  of  Mrs.  Catherine  Widgen,  the  matron  of  that  excellent 
establishment,  that,  by  a  zealous  perseverance  in  the  means  recommended 
by  that  Society,  she  had  been  the  happy  instrument  of  restoring  from 
a  state  of  apparent  death  in  the  space  of  three  years  no  less  than  forty- 
five  infants,  who,  but  for  her  humane  attention  and  indefatigable 
exertions,  must  have  been  consigned  to  the  grave.  Later  on,  Mrs. 
Widgen  restored  in  one  year  twenty-seven  apparently  dead-born  children 
— a  striking  instance  of  the  truth  of  the  remark  of  a  celebrated  writer 
(Osiander)  that  "the  generality  of  infants  considered  as  still-born  are 
only  apparently  so  ;  if,  therefore,  persons  would  persevere  in  their  exertions 
to  revive  them  most  of  them  might  be  restored." — "Report  of  the 
Royal  Humane  Society,"  1816-17,  pp.  52-54. 

"  For  these  exertions  the  General  Court  adjudged  the  Honorary 
Medallion  to  Mrs.  Widgen,  and  it  was  accordingly  presented  to  her  by 
His  Royal  Highness  the  Duke  of  Kent." — Ibid.)  p.  52. 

[The  question  natuarally  suggests  itself  in  this  place  :  If  the  matron 
of  such  a  noble  institution  as  the  above  was  able  to  save  seventy-two 
apparently  dead  children  from  the  grave  in  four  years,  how  many  of  these 
poor  little  beings  are  consigned  to  the  grave  all  over  the  world  for 
lack  of  the  "humane  attention  and  indefatigable  exertions"  such  as 
this  skilful  matron  gave  to  those  that  came  under  her  intelligent  care?] 


"A  child,  who  had  a  cough  for  some  time,  was  suddenly  attacked 
with  difficulty  of  breathing,  and  to  all  appearances  died.  A  medical 


gentleman  immediately  inflated  the  lungs,  and  by  persisting  in  this  for 
a  considerable  time  recovered  the  child.  A  similar  state  of  suspended 
animation  took  place  three  or  four  times,  and  inflation  was  as  often  had 
recourse  to  with  the  same  success  ;  but  the  attack  happening,  unfortun- 
ately, to  recur  whilst  the  medical  gentleman  in  whose  family  the  case 
happened  was  from  home,  the  proper  measures  were  not  taken,  and 
the  child  was  lost." — Ibid.,  p.  140. 


"A  boy  was  struck  down  by  a  flash 'of  lightning  near  Hoxton  (in  the 
suburbs  of  London),  and  lay  exposed  to  the  rain  at  least  an  hour,  until 
his  companions  carried  him  home  on  some  boards,  apparently  dead — 
the  body  being  stiff  and  universally  cold,  the  fingers  and  toes  contracted, 
and  the  countenance  livid.  He  was  stripped  of  his  wet  clothes,  put  in 
hot  blankets,  and  bled  twenty  ounces.  In  half  an  hour  interrupted 
respiration  commenced,  without  inflating  the  lungs ;  in  an  hour  more 
regular  pulsation  and  breathing  were  established,  together  with  power  of 
swallowing;  and  in  a  week  he  was  quite  well." — Ibid,  p.  147. 

In  the  Lancet,  1884,  vol.  i.,  p.  922,  W.  Arnold  Thomson,  F.R. C.S.I., 
reports  a  case  of  resuscitation  of  a  child  delivered  by  the  forceps,  which 
was  "apparently  to  myself  [he  says]  and  the  nurse  and  relatives  a  per- 
fectly dead  child,  and  with  no  signs  of  respiration  or  life  about  it.  .  . 
My  opinion  was  that  the  death  was  real  and  positive,  but  that,  there 
being  no  actual  disease  present,  and  the  blood  still  warm,  the  machinery 
of  life  was  set  going,  and  resuscitation  followed  as  a  consequence  of 
suitable  means  being  taken  and  persevered  in  without  undue  delay.  In 
the  future  I  do  not  intend  to  allow  any  still-born  children  to  be  put 
away  without  making  strenuous  efforts  to  restore  vitality." 

The  Lancet,  1880,  vol.  ii.,  p.  582  : — In  a  discussion  at  the  Royal 
Medical  and  Chirurgical  Society  upon  Artificial  Respiration  in  New-born 
Children,  Dr.  Roper  related  three  cases  in  which  the  child  was  left  for 
dead.  "  One  of  these  occurred  in  the  practice  of  Mr.  Brown,  of  St. 
Mary  Axe.  The  child  was  still-born  in  the  absence  of  a  medical  man. 
It  was  taken  to  the  surgery,  and  thence  to  the  late  Mr.  Solly,  who  next 
day,  in  dissecting  the  body,  found  that  the  heart  was  still  beating.  A 
second  instance  was  of  a  fetus  of  five  months  and  a  half,  which  was 
set  aside  as  dead,  Dr.  Roper  attending  the  mother,  who  was  suffering 
from  hemorrhage.  He  was  astonished  next  day  to  find  that  this 
immature  child,  which  had  lain  on  the  floor  for  eleven  hours  through  a 

AND    OTHER    INFANTS.  391 

cold  night,  was  breathing  and  its  heart  beating.    ..."     Such  examples 
show  that  the  new-born  have  greater  tenacity  of  life  than  is  supposed. 

The  Lancet,  1881.  vol.  ii.,  page  430,  under  the  heading  of  "  The  Burial 
of  Still-born  Infants,"  states  that  "  Greater  security  for  the  due  observance 
of  these  necessary  regulations  (the  Births  and  Deaths  Registration  Act 
of  1874)  for  the  burial  of  infants  said  to  be  still-born  is  urgently  called 
for.  It  is  constantly  patent  that  the  burial  of  deceased  infants  as  still- 
born, if  checked,  is  by  no  means  prevented ;  and  that  the  authorities  of 
burial-grounds,  by  their  laxity  in  carrying  out  the  provisions  of  the  Act, 
afford  dangerous  facilities  for  the  concealment  of  crime,  or  negligence, 
and  for  a  practice  which  threatens  to  impair  the  value  of  our  birth  and 
death  registration  statistics  ;  for,  if  a  live-born  infant  be  buried  as  still- 
born, neither  its  birth  nor  its  death  is  registered." 

A  case  of  forceps-delivery  occurred  in  the  hands  of  Dr.  E.  P.  Vollum 
in  which  the  child,  when  extracted,  was  quite  purple  in  colour,  and 
absolutely  dead  to  all  appearances — there  was  no  breathing  nor  impulse 
to  be  found  anywhere.  After  some  efforts  at  resuscitation  in  the  way  of 
artificial  respiration — not  very  thoroughly  done,  nor  much  prolonged  (for 
the  child  was  believed  to  be  dead) — with  a  warm  bath  and  frictions,  it 
was  laid  aside  and  covered  up.  At  a  subsequent  visit,  some  hours  later, 
the  child  was  found  in  the  nurse's  lap  completely  recovered,  and 
changed  in  colour  to  a  bright  pink.  The  nurse  said  she  did  not  like 
to  give  the  little  fellow  up,  and  by  breathing  into  his  mouth  for  some 
time  he  showed  returning  life,  and  by  keeping  it  up  he  soon  began  to 
breathe  himself. 

Cases  like  this  are  believed  to  be  not  infrequent,  because  physicians 
and  nurses  are  not,  as  a  general  rule,  aware  of  the  great  tenacity  of  life 
possessed  by  the  new-born  infant. 

"  Still-births  are  not  registered  in  England;  but,  under  the  New 
Registration  Act,  no  still-born  child  can  be  buried  without  a  certificate 
from  a  registered  practitioner  in  attendance,  or  a  declaration  from  a 
midwife,  to  the  effect  that  the  child  was  still-born.  The  proportion  of 
still-births  in  this  country  is  supposed  to  be  about  four  per  cent.,  but 
this  is  uncertain." — A.  Newsholme,  "Vital  Statistics,"  1889,  p.  61. 

"  The  proportion  of  deaths  from  premature  births,  compared  with  the 
total  number  of  births,  in  1861-65  was  II'I9  to  i»ooo  births;  since 
which  time  it  has  steadily  increased,  reaching  the  ratio  of  15*89  per 
births  in  1,000  in  1887." — Ibid,  p.  216. 

The   same   author,    p.    17,   states   that    "a   certain   proportion  of  the 


births   remain   unregistered  (a).      There    is    strong   reason   for    thinking 
that  a  certain  number  of  children  born  alive  are  buried  as  still-born." 

The  editor  has  repeatedly  restored  "still-born"  children,  in  whom  no 
signs  of  life  were  apparent,  by  vigorous  and  continued  artificial  respira- 
tion and  friction.  It  is  to  be  presumed  that  in  the  hands  of  midwives 
many  such  lives  have  been  lost. 


THIS  is  perhaps  the  best  known  and  most  generally  appreciated  occa- 
sion of  rescuing  the  apparently  dead.  The  high  degree  in  which  it  has- 
excited  public  sympathy  will  appear  from  a  glance  at  that  section  of  the 
Bibliography  (towards  the  end  of  the  eighteenth  century)  which  gives 
the  titles  of  essays  and  reports  connected  with  the  Royal  Humane  Society 
and  the  corresponding  foreign  institutions  upon  which  our  own  was 
modelled.  The  following  general  remarks  and  cases  are  from  the  essay 
of  Dr.  Struve,  of  Gorlitz,  Lusatia,  1802  : — 

"  A  great  number  of  persons  apparently  drowned  have  been  restored, 
to  life  without  the  use  of  stimulants,  merely  by  the  renovated  suscepti- 
bility of  irritation.  I  have  collected  thirty-six  cases  of  persons  apparently 
drowned  in  Lusatia  from  the  year  I772  to  the  year  1792.  Most  of  them 
were  treated  by  uninformed  people,  and  revived  by  friction  and  warming; 
two  persons,  however,  were  indebted  for  their  lives  to  the  continuation 
of  the  resuscitative  process  for  several  hours.  The  greatest  number 
were  children;  which  is  to  be  ascribed  not  only  to  the  greater  danger 
to  which  they  are  exposed  of  drowning,  but  also  to  the  longer  continu- 
ance of  vital  power  in  the  infant  frame"  (p.  136). 

' '  A  boy  of  about  a  year  and  a  half  old  had  lain  upwards  of  a  quarter 
of  an  hour  in  the  water,  and  was  found  face  downwards,  and  the  whole 
body  livid  and  swollen.  He  was  undressed,  wiped  dry,  and  wrapped  in 
warm  blankets;  but  the  most  particular  part  of  the  process  was  rolling 
the  body  upon  a  table,  shaking  it  by  the  shoulders,  and  rubbing  the  feet. 
This  having  been  continued  for  an  hour,  a  convulsive  motion  was 
observed  in  the  toes;  sneezing  was  excited  by  snuff;  the  tongue  stimu- 
lated by  strong  vinegar;  the  throat  irritated  with  a  feather;  an  injection 


given.      The   child   vomited   a  large  quantity  of  water,  and  in  an  hour 
afterwards    began    to    breathe,   and    was    completely    restored    to    life." 

(P-   137). 

"A  woman  upwards  of  thirty  years  of  age,  and  who  was  affected  with 
epilepsy,  fell  in  a  fit  from  a  height  of  twenty  feet  into  the  water,  where 
she  remained  a  full  quarter  of  an  hour  before  she  was  taken  out.  Mr. 
Redlich,  surgeon,  of  Hamburg,  had  her  put  into  a  bed  warmed  by  hot 
bottles;  she  was  rubbed  with  warm  flannels,  some  spirits  were  dropped 
into  her  mouth,  when  in  a  quarter  of  an  hour  symptoms  of  life,  such  as 
convulsive  motion  and  a  very  weak  pulse,  appeared.  In  three  hours 
from  the  time  she  was  taken  out  of  the  water  she  recovered  completely." 
(p.  138).  . 

Dr.  Charles  Londe,  in  a  remarkable  pamphlet  (Lettre  sur  la  Mort 
Apparente,  les  Consequences  Reelles  des  Inhumations  Precipitees,  et  le 
Temps  pendant  lequel  peut  persister  1'eptitude  a  etre  rapele  a  la  Vie." 
Paris,  Bailliere,  1854),  records  some  instances  of  narrow  escapes  from 
premature  burial  <5f  the  drowned,  one  of  which  may  be  cited  : — 

"  On  the  1 3th  of  July,  1829,  about  two  p.m.,  near  the  Pont  des  Arts, 
Paris,  a  body,  which  appeared  lifeless,  was  taken  out  of  the  river.  It 
was  that  of  a  young  man,  twenty  years  of  age,  dark  complexioned,  and 
strongly  built.  The  corpse  was  discoloured  and  cold ;  the  face  and  lips 
swollen  and  tinged  with  blue ;  a  thick  and  yellowish  froth  exuded  from 
the  mouth;  the  eyes  were  open,  fixed,  and  motionless;  the  limbs  limp 
and  drooping.  No  pulsation  of  the  heart  nor  trace  of  1  es pi  ration  was 
perceptible.  The  body  had  remained  under  water  for  a  considerable 
time;  the  search  for  it,  made  in  Dr.  Bourgeois's  presence,  lasted  fully 
twenty  minutes.  That  gentleman  did  not  hesitate  to  incur  the  derision 
of  the  lookers-on  by  proceeding  to  attempt  the  resuscitation  of  what,  in 
their  eyes,  was  a  mere  lump  of  clay.  Nevertheless,  several  hours  after- 
wards, the  supposed  corpse  was  restored  to  life,  thanks  to  the  obstinate 
perseverance  of  the  doctor,  who,  although  a  strong  man  and  enjoying 
robust  health,  was  several  times  on  the  point  of  losing  courage  and 
abandoning  the  patient  in  despair.  But  what  would  have  happened  if  Dr. 
Bourgeois,  instead  of  persistently  remaining  stooping  over  the  inanimate 
body,  with  watchful  eye  and  attentive  ear.,  to  catch  the  first  rustling  of 
the  heart,  had  left  the  drowned  man,  after  half  an  hour's  fruitless 
endeavour,  as  often  happens?  The  unfortunate  man  would  have  been 
laid  in  the  grave,  although  capable  of  restoration  to  life .' " 

To  this  case  Dr.  Bourgeois,  in  the  "Archives  de  Medicine,"  adds 
others,  in  which  individuals  remained  under  water  as  long  as  six  HOURS, 


and  were  recalled  to  life  by  efforts  which  a  weaker  conviction  than  his 
own  would  have  refrained  from  making.  These  facts  lead  Dr.  Londe 
to  the  conclusion  that  every  day  drowned  individuals  are  buried  who, 
with  greater  pe>  severance,  might  be  restored  to  life! 

The  following  case  in  point  appears  in  tne  Sunny  side,  New  York,  com- 
municated by  J.  W.  Green,  M.D.: — 

"  A  few  years  since  I  was  walking  by  the  Central  Park,  near  One 
Hundred  and  Tenth  Street  and  Fifth  Avenue.  Noticing  a  crowd  that  was 
acting  in  an  unusual  manner  by  the  side  of  the  lake,  I  approached  and 
inquired  of  one  of  the  bystanders  what  was  the  cause  of  the  excitement. 
He  replied,  '  A  boy  is  drowned.'  I  advanced  to  the  edge  of  the  water, 
and  saw  two  or  three  men  in  the  water  searching  for  the  body.  As  they 
had  not  yet  discovered  it,  I  made  enquiries,  and  found  at  last  a  small  boy 
who  had  been  a  comrade  of  the  victim.  He  showed  me  the  spot  from 
which  the  boy  had  fallen.  I  then  pointed  out  to  the  searchers  where  to 
look,  and  immediately  the  body  was  recovered.  I  took  it  at  once  from 
i he  hands  of  the  person  who  had  it,  and  held  it  reversed,  in  order  to 
disembarrass  it  of  all  the  water  possible,  for  a  minute  or  two,  then 
stripped  it  of  its  clothing,  sent  for  a  blanket  and  brandy.  I  took  a 
woollen  coat  from  one  of  the  bystanders  until  the  blanket  should  arrive, 
laid  the  child  upon  it  and  commenced  to  rotate  it.  This  I  continued 
to  do  for  at  least  fifteen  minutes  by  the  watch.  I  then  tried  auscultation  ; 
no  murmur  could  be  heard. 

"The  skin  was  cold,  the  lips  were  blue.  Every  artery  was  still. 
With  all  these  signs  of  death  present  it  was  still  obligatory  upon  me 
to  persevere.  At  the  end  of  fifteen  minutes  there  was  a  slight  gasp. 
A  small  quantity  of  brandy  was  placed  upon  the  tongue.  A  little  of 
this  ran  into  the  larynx,  and  the  stimulation  was  sufficient  to  produce  a 
long  inspiration  a'  d  then  a  cough.  This  was  more  than  a  half-hour 
from  ihe  time  when  the  boy  had  been  removed  from  the  water. 
Complete  restoraiion  did  not  occur  until  nearly  an  hour  from  that  time. 
He  was  now  given  to  his  mother,  and  I  was  informed  on  the  following 
day  that  he  entirely  recovered,  without  an  unfavourable  symptom." 

The  three  following  cases  of  resuscitation  from  apparent  death  by 
drowning  are  copied  from  the  most  recent  reports  of  the  Royal  Humane 
.Society,  London  : — 

"  On  1 3th  of  August,  1895,  Samuel  Lawrence,  aged  five  years,  while 
playing  on  the  bank  of  a  disused  claypit  at  South  Bank,  Yorkshire, 
fell  into  the  water  and  sank.  Two  ot  his  companions  dived  into  the 
water  and  brought  him  up,  after  a  submersion  of  from  seven  to  ten 


minutes,  in  an  unconscious  state.  Two  working  men  commenced  arti- 
ficial respiration,  and  Dr.  Steele  continued  it  for  ten  hours  before  the 
boy  showed  signs  of  returning  sensibility  and  his  complete  recovery." 

"October  6th,  1895. — At  Deptford,  Surrey,  a  woman  with  a  baby  in 
her  arms  threw  herself  into  the  canal.  They  were  rescued  by  the 
Royal  Humane  Society's  drags.  Two  ladies  took  possession  of  the 
bodies  (time  of  submersion  not  stated),  and  they  employed  Sylvester's 
system  of  artificial  respiration  with  success,  in  the  case  of  the  woman 
in  about  one  hour,  and  with  the  child  one  hour  and  a  half." 

"August  6th,  1895. — At  Bradford,  England,  Rudolf  Pratt,  a  clerk 
with  Midland  R.R.  Company,  was  bathing,  and  sank  in  deep  water. 
A  bystander  by  diving  brought  him  up.  After  a  submersion  of  five 
minutes,  unconscious,  and  not  breathing,  Dr.  Oldham  restored  respiration 
by  Sylvester's  method  after  one  and  a  half  hour's  treatment." 

These  three  cases  are  instructive  on  account  of  the  length  of  time 
animation  remained  suspended  before  it  could  be  aroused  to  a  state  of 
activity ;  and  they  lead  to  the  belief  that  many  cases  that  are  given 
up  as  actually  dead  could  be  saved  if  efforts  at  resuscitation  were  kept 
up  for  a  lengthened  period,  as  in  the  first  case. 

In  cases  of  drowning  some  persons  are  quickly  revived  after  a  long 
submersion ;  others  again,  who  are  under  water  only  a  short  time, 
require  artificial  respiration  for  a  long  time  before  they  show  signs  of 
returning  life,  as  was  the  case  with  Samuel  Lawrence,  who  was 
submerged  only  ten  minutes,  yet  required  ten  hours'  active  treatment 
to  revive  him. 



THE  Casket,  Rochester,  New  York,  September,  1896,  observes:— At 
^different  times  considerable  opposition  has  been  raised  against  embalming 
by  Boards  of  Health  and  other  officials  in  various  localities,  on  account 
of  the  haste  with  which  the  embalmer  proceeds  with  his  duties.  A  few 
recent  cases  of  supposed  corpses  recovering,  one  of  which  occurred  in 
Philadelphia,  Pa.,  have  revived  the  question,  and  it  is  reported  that  the 
Philadelphia  Board  of  Health  may  take  action,  looking  to  the  enactment 
of  a  law  prescribing  the  period  of  time  which  should  elapse  after  death 
•before  a  body  should  be  embalmed. 


In  a  recent  issue  of  the  Philadelphia  Times,  Funeral- Director  Johm 
J.  O'Rourke,  a  well-known  professional  of  that  city,  expresses  himself" 
on  the  subject  as  follows  : — 

"These  two  narrow  escapes  from  burial  alive  have  further  impressed1 
me  with  one  of  the  perils  attending  the  disposition  of  the  dead — I  mean 
the  danger  of  hasty  embalming.  As  you  know,  in  most  cases  the  doctor 
who  has  had  the  patient  is  not  called  in  after  death,  and  very  often  the 
relatives  of  the  deceased  expect  the  undertaker,  if  embalming  is  to  be 
done,  to  proceed  with  it  at  once.  All  the  embalming  schools  teach 
that  the  only  proper  way  to  thus  treat  the  body  is  by  use  of  fluids- 
through  the  arteries.  But  in  the  lectures  on  the  subject  no  period  that 
should  be  permitted  to  elapse  before  it  is  begun  is  prescribed,  and,  as  a.. 
rule,  it  follows  dissolution  as  quickly  as  possible. 

"  I  contend  that  there  should  be  some  law  or  official  rule  governing' 
the  matter,  because  after  the  artery  is  punctured  and  the  fluid  goes- 
through  the  whole  body  it  is  sure  to  destroy  any  spark  of  life  that 
might  remain.  I  have  never  met  with  any  cases  of  resuscitation  myself, 
but  have  had  instances  of  deaths  that  made  me  hesitate  in  the  work  of 
embalming.  Some  months  ago  a  man  came  to  me  fifteen  minutes  after 
a  relative  had  breathed  his  last  and  asked  me  to  embalm  the  body.  I. 
went  to  the  house,  and,  after  seeing  the  corpse,  refused,  saying  that  I 
would  not  do  it  until  after  the  expiration  of  twelve  hours.  The  man1 
had  died  of  consumption,  yet,  for  fear  of  it  being  a  case  of  suspended, 
animation,  I  would  take  no  chances. 

"At  another  time  a  person  had  died  of  dropsy.  Within  half  an  hour 
I  was  summoned.  The  attending  physician  had  not  been  there,  and 
twenty-four  hours  afterwards  he  gave  a  certificate  of  death  from  cancer. 
The  body  was  very  warm  when  I  arrived,  and  neighbours  who  had. 
kindly  volunteered  to  prepare  it  were  doubtful  if  life  was  extinct.  I 
had  the  corpse  laid  on  an  embalming  table  for  two  hours,  and  then 
placed  it  in  what  is  known  as  a  Saratoga  patent  box,  in  which  are  pans- 
filled  with  salted  ice,  so  arranged  that  cold  air  circulates  around  the 
body.  Had  this  been  a  case  of  suspended  animation,  it  would  have 
taken  several  hours  to  dispel  the  heat  within  the  corpse. 

"  Of  course  there  are  some  supposed  unmistakable  signs.  The  only 
positive  signs  of  dissolution  are  those  which  depend  on  molecular  change 
or  death-rigidity  of  the  muscles  of  the  whole  body,  and  putrefaction  of 
the  tissues.  These  are  most  marked  in  organs  and  tissues  the  vital 
functions  of  which  are  the  most  active.  The  action  of  the  heart,  the- 
movements  of  respiration,  may  be  reduced  as  to  be  altogether  imper- 


•ceptible,  so  that  the  functions  of  circulation  and  respiration  appear  to 
be  arrested.  This  is  occasionally  observed  in  temporary  syncope,  in 
which  a  person,  to  all  appearances  dead,  has  after  a  time  regained 
consciousness  and  recovered. 

"The  peculiar  condition  of  the  nervous  system  called  catalepsy,  and 
the  state  of  trance,  are  likewise  further  examples  of  the  so-called 
apparent  deaths ;  but  on  the  occurrence  of  actual  death  the  irritability 
of  the  muscles  by  degrees  disappears,  electricity  no  longer  excites  their 
contraction,  and  then  cadaverous  rigidity  sets  in.  ...  Some  action 
will,  in  all  probability,  be  urged  upon  the  next  Legislature,  or  upon 
the  Board  of  Health." 


The  following  letter  from  the  editor  of  the  Northern  Herald,  directed 
to  a  valued  correspondent,  has  been  received  just  as  we  are  going  to 
press : — 

"  WICK,  September  9,   1904. 

"Dear  Sir, 

"  In  connection  with  the  question  of  Premature  Burial, 
permit  me  to  bring  under  your  notice  a  case  which  has  just  been 
reported  to  me. 

"Quite  recently  an  old  woman  died  in  Ross-shire,  or,  at  any  rate, 
was  pronounced  to  be  dead  by  a  doctor.  A  relative  of  mine  was  asked 
to  'dress'  the  body.  She,  with  the  assistance  of  a  neighbour  woman, 
undertook  the  job,  and  were  busy  carrying  out  the  last  offices  of  respect, 
when  the  corpse  said,  '  Oh,  I  am  very  faint.  Can  you  give  me  a  draw 
of  the  pipe  ? '  It  appears  that  the  old  lady  was  in  the  habit  of  smoking 
a  pipe.  Both  the  dressers  got  such  a  fright  that  they  ran,  as  it  were, 
for  dear  life,  out  of  the  house  of  the  'dead.'  One  of  them  every  now 
and  then  is  seized  with  a  fit  of  laughter.  So  much  so,  that  she  has 
lost  control  of  herself,  and  has  to  adjourn  to  a  retired  place  to  let  the 
fit  run  its  course. 

"The  medical  man  who  had  declared  the  old  lady  to  be  no  more 
wired  a  relative  of  the  'fact ;  but,  when  he  learned  that  his  patient  was 
*  resurrected,'  he  had  to  cancel  the  message. 

"I  thought  this  narrative  would  interest  you,  and  beg  to  forward  it* 

"  Yours  faithfully, 

"A.  M.    Ross. 
•"H.  N.  Mosley,  Esq.,  M.A." 




IN  the  sixteenth  Council  of  Milan,  Saint  Charles  Borromeo  prohibited 
burials  before  twelve  hours  after  ordinary  cases  of  death,  and  twenty- 
four  hours  after  cases  of  sudden  death.  As  early  as  the  sixteenth 
century  serious  attention  in  the  examination  of  the  dead  was  made 
obligatory  by  the  enactment  of  Article  149  of  the  Criminal  Statutes  of 
Charles  the  Fifth.  This  was  the  foundation  of  legal  medicine  in 
Germany.  In  France,  a  similar  ordinance  was  first  established  in  1789. 


Act  of  April  rot /i,  1869. 

No  burial  is  allowed  without  the  written  permission  of  the  Civil 
Recorder,  granted  upon  the  production  of  a  certificate  of  a  qualified 
physician,  and  not  until  thirty  six  hours  have  elapsed  after  death,  nor 
later  than  the  fifth  day  after  death.  But  this  regulation  can  be  set 
aside,  and  a  longer  period  allowed,  by  the  burgomaster,  on  the- 
application  of  a  doctor. 

Dead-houses  are  in  use  for  bodies  dead  of  infectious  diseases. 


Death  must  first  be  established  by  a  licensed  physician,  who  carefully 
examines  the  body  for  that  purpose,  and,  if  satisfied,  then  issues  a 
certificate  which  states  the  name,  age,  sex,  place,  and  date,  and 
immediate  cause  of  death.  The  certificate  is  taken  within  twenty-four 
hours  after  the  death  to  the  Standesamt,  where  the  death  is  recorded, 
and  a  certificate  to  that  effect  is  given,  and  presented  to  the  Cemetery 
Commission,  which  assigns  the  place  of  burial.  The  corpse  is  required 
to  remain  unburied  three  days,  either  at  the  place  of  death  or  at  the 
mortuary,  where  it  is  under  the  observation  of  attendants ;  but  there  is 
no  State-appointed  inspector  of  the  dead,  nor  electric  bells  or  other 
means  for  announcing  and  recording  any  movements  of  the  body.  The 
system  of  inspection  and  certification  by  qualified  physicians,  with  the 
delay  of  three  days,  and  the  favourable  condition  of  the  dead-houses, 
have  been  the  means  of  preventing  the  living  from  being  mistaken  for 
the  dead  in  a  number  of  cases. 



Interments  must  not  take  place,  according  to  Article  77  of  the  Code 
Napoleon,  before  twenty-four  hours  of  death,  but  in  practice  it  is 
twenty-four  hours  after  death  notification  by  the  mort-verificateur : 
During  epidemics,  or  when  deaths  occur  from  infectious  or  contagions, 
diseases,  the  interments  must  invariably  be  made  within  twenty-four 
hours  of  death. 

Article  77  of  the  Civil  Code  states  that  "No  burial  shall  take  place 
without  an  authorisation,  on  free  paper  and  without  expense,  of  the 
officer  of  the  civil  state,  who  will  not  be  empowered  to  deliver  it, 
unless  after  having  visited  the  deceased  person,  nor  unless  twenty-four 
hours  after  the  decease,  except  in  cases  provided  for  by  the  regulations  of 
the  police."  It  results  from  this  that  no  corpse  can  be  buried  before  a 
minimum  delay  of  twenty-four  hours  shall  have  expired  after  the  decease. 
The  formal  record  of  the  decease  must  be  made  by  the  officer  of  the 
civil  state  (the  mayor),  or,  which  is  what  takes  place  in  most  of  the 
communes,  by  a  medical  man  delegated  by  the  mayor,  and  who  takes 
the  title  of  medical  officer  of  the  civil  state. 

The  Article  77  of  the  Civil  Code  is  generally  strictly  observed  in 
Paris  and  in  other  cities  of  France.  The  obligation  to  await  the  delay 
of  twenty-four  hours  is  intended  to  prevent  too  hasty  burials.  One 
considers,  in  fact,  that  that  delay  is  generally  necessary  in  order  to  be 
able  to  have  certain  proofs  of  death. 

By  Article  358  of  the  Penal  Code,  the  burial  of  a  deceased  person 
without  such  authorisation  is  punishable  by  a  maximum  period  of  two 
months'  imprisonment,  and  a  maximum  fine  of  fifty  francs,  without 
prejudice  to  other  criminal  proceedings  which  may  be  applicable  under 
the  circumstances. 

Exceptions,  however,  have  been  established  in  certain  cases.  For 
example,  in  times  of  epidemics,  or  of  too  rapid  decomposition  of  the 
corpse  in  the  usual  case,  there  is  urgent  need,  in  fact,  to  bury  the  body 
of  a  person  attacked  with  a  contagious  or  epidemic  malady,  in  order  to 
suppress  one  of  the  causes  of  propagation  of  the  epidemic,  or  of  the 
contagion.  In  the  second  case,  it  is  understood  that  one  could  not 
keep  longer,  without  danger  to  the  public  health,  a  corpse  in  complete 
putrefaction.  There  is  occasion  also  to  observe  that,  in  these  circum- 
stances, the  end  which  the  legislator  has  proposed  to  himself  is  equally 
obtained,  since  there  cannot  be  any  doubt  as  to  the  real  death.  How- 
ever that  may  be,  it  is  the  mayor  (officer  of  the  civil  state)  to  whom 
it  appertains,  according  to  the  terms  of  the  Article  77  of  the  Civil  Code, 


to  give  authority  to  bury  ;  and  if  he  gives  that  authorisation  before  the 
expiration  of  the  delay  of  twenty-four  hours,  it  is  after  having  established 
by  himself,  or  by  the  medical  officer  of  the  civil  state,  the  fact  of  its 
necessity,  resulting  from  the  circumstances  of  which  we  have  just 

It  is  to  be  remarked  that  the  Article  77  fixes  a  minimum  and  not  a 
maximum  delay.  It  is  always  the  mayor  to  whom  it  appertains  to  fix: 
the  day  and  the  hour  of  the  burial,  and  there  may  happen  such  and 
such  a  circumstance  which  necessitates  a  delay  of  the  obsequies.  The 
mayor  need  only  assure  himself  in  that  case  that  no  danger  will  result 
to  the  public  health,  which  naturally  is  the"  case  when  the  corpse  is 
embalmed,  or  is  placed  in  a  leaden  coffin. 

Outside  Paris  and  other  large  cities,  and  especially  in  the  rural 
districts,  much  laxity  prevails  both  as  to  verification  of  death  and  the 
time  of  burial,  and  cases  of  premature  burial  are  not  infrequent. 


The  laws  relative  to  funerals  and  burials  are  very  strict — perhaps 
the  most  thorough  in  their  requirements  of  any  in  Europe.  They 
provide  for  a  very  careful  inspection  of  the  body  by  medical  inspectors, 
quite  independently  of  the  attending  physicians,  in  order  to  ascertain  if  the 
death  be  absolute.  Minute  and  specific  official  directions  guide  them 
as  to  the  method  of  examination  and  the  signs  of  death  to  be  looked 
for.  And  they  further  provide  for  carrying  out  any  particular  method, 
as  to  which  the  deceased  may  have  given  directions,  in  order  to 
prevent  a  possible  revival  in  the  coffin.  Should  the  surviving  relatives 
desire  it,  a  post-mortem  operation  may  be  made  upon  the  body,  in  the 
presence  of  the  medical  inspectors  and  the  police  ;  in  which  case  the 
heart  is  pierced  through  ;  and  a  full  report  of  the  operations  must  be 
forwarded  to  the  civic  magistrate.  A  fee  of  six  florins  is  allowed  for 
such  an  operation. 


Every  death  is  to  be  inquired  into  by  the  municipal  physician.  The 
first  of  five  objects  is  to  ascertain  whether  the  person  be  really  dead. 
In  examining  whether  there  are  any  remaining  indications  of  life,  he 
will  rely  not  upon  any  one  sign,  nor  even  upon  putrefaction,  but  upon 
the  totality  of  the  signs  of  death.  If  there  are  any  indications  of  life 
remaining,  he  must  at  once  institute  the  means  of  resuscitation  approved 
by  science,  and  continue  them  until  such  time  as  the  family  medical 
attendant  is  assured  of  their  uselessness.  If  there  be  any  doubt  as  to 


the  reality  of  the  death,  a  second  inspection  of  the  body  is  to  be  made 
by  the  municipal  physician  within  twenty-four  hours.  Burial,  as  a  rule, 
is  not  to  be  until  forty-eight  hours  after  death ;  but  the  interval  may  be 
shortened  in  cases  of  infectious  diseases  or  of  unusually  rapid  decom- 

Vice-  Governor's  Order  of  2Qth  April,  1894. 

Every  death  to  be  inquired  into  by  the  parish  physician,  or  a  deputy 
appointed  by  the  mayor.  The  first  of  six  objects  of  the  inquest  is 
to  ascertain  whether  the  person  be  really  dead.  In  the  event  of  a 
non-medical  examiner  discovering  signs  of  life,  he  is  to  send  for  a 
doctor.  Inasmuch  as  decomposition,  the  only  sure  sign  of  death,  is,  as  a 
rule,  a  phenomenon  of  later  occurrence  than  the  time  appointed  for  the 
inquest  (within  twelve  hours  of  the  notification  of  death),  the  examining 
person  must  base  his  certainty  of  the  extinction  of  life,  not  upon  one 
sign,  but  upon  the  totality  of  the  signs  of  death. 

Law   of  2OtJi  /uly,   1850. 

The  burial  of  a  corpse  must  not  take  place  until  seventy-two  hours 
after  death,  and  the  signs  of  decomposition  are  clearly  visible.  Any 
proposed  departure  from  this  rule,  in  the  event  of  earlier  putrefaction, 
or  the  absence  of  decomposition  at  the  end  of  seventy-two  hours, 
requires  the  authority  of  a  physician  called  in.  By  the  above  Law  the 
following  Orders  are  suspended:  (i)  the  Order  of  nth  February,  1792, 
concerning  the  treatment  of  the  dead,  and  the  precautions  necessary  to 
prevent  the  apparently  dead  from  being  buried  prematurely ;  (2)  the 
General  Order  of  I3th  February,  1801,  concerning  precautionary  measures 
in  the  burial  of  those  dead  of  infectious  diseases;  (3)  the  Law  of  22nd 
June,  1841,  together  with  the  Administrative  Orders  concerning  the 
examination  of  corpses  and  the  establishment  of  mortuaries. 

Order  of  3Oth  October,  1848. 

The  ordinance  hitherto  in'  force,  as  to  making  an  incision  in  the  sole 
of  the  foot  in  cases  of  patients  who  die  in  the  hospitals,  is  abolished  ; 
the  hospital  physicians  to  use  their  discretion  whether  or  not  the  incision 
should  be  made;  but,  in  cases  for  which  is  demanded  an  earlier  burial 
than  is  visually  prescribed,  whether  they  have  been  hospital  or  private 


patients,  the  incision  is  to  be  made  in  the  sole  of  the  foot  at  the  end1! 
of  the  second  inspection,  and  every  other  means  taken  to  ascertain, 
whether  the  death  be  apparent  or  real. 


1.  The  prevailing  custom  for  Christians  and  Mahomedans  is  to  bury  the- 
dead.     The    Hindoos   burn    them    as  a  rule,  but    many  prefer   to   throw 
them    into   a  sacred   river,  particularly  the    Ganges   or   its  tributaries,  if 
they  can  do  so  unmolested  by  the  authorities. 

2.  There  are  no  mortuaries.     The  signs  which  are  assumed  to  indicate 
death   are   the    various    conditions   and   appearances   when    animation   is 

3.  Cases    of   revival    from    supposed    death    are    sometimes    heard    of 
among  the  Hindoos,  who  regard  such  persons  as  outcasts.     If  the  signs 
of  returning  life  are  not  very  manifest  when  a  person   begins  to  revive, 
he  is  sometimes  killed  by  stuffing  the  mouth  and  nose  with  mud,  which 
generally  accomplishes  the  object. 


I.  There  are  no  laws  or  regulations  in  India  for  the  disposal  of  the 
dead.  The  customs  and  formalities  follow  the  traditions  and  require- 
ments of  religious  belief. 

a.  The  Hindoos  burn  their  dead  immediately  after  death  takes  place. 

b.  The  Parsees  take  their  dead  to  a  "Tower  of  Silence"  as  soon  as 

death  takes  place,  and,  after  certain  prescribed  ceremonies,  the 
body  is  speedily  devoured  by  vultures. 

1.  The    Europeans   and    Mahomedans    bury    their    dead    within   from 

twenty-four  to  forty-eight  hours,  because  putrefaction  usually 
sets  in  soon  after  death  on  account  of  the  heat  and  humidity  of 
the  climate. 

2.  There  are   no   mortuaries,  excepting   in   connection   with  hospitals, 
where  observations  can  be  made. 


i.  There  are  no  laws  nor  regulations  relative  to  the  disposal  of  the 
dead,  excepting  in  cases  requiring  an  inquest  or  post-mortem  examina- 
tion. The  custom  is  to  bury  within  twenty-four  to  thirty  hours  after 
death,  but  the  time  is  sometimes  extended  to  two  or  three  days. 


2.  There   are    no    dead-houses,    except    at    the    hospitals,    which    are 
under  the  management  of  the  superintendent. 

3.  The   certificate    of  the    medical    attendant    is    sufficient   for    burial 
purposes.      The  complete   cessation  of  respiration  and  the  heart's  action 
are   considered  an   absolute   indication   of  death.     When   decomposition 
sets  in,  it  usually  appears  within  twenty-four  hours  after  death,  although 
in  winter  that  process  may  be  longer  delayed. 


Orthodox  Russians  keep  their  dead  three  days  before  burial.  During 
that  time  the  body  lies  with  the  face  uncovered,  and  a  deacon  chants 
and  prays  over  it  twice  a  day.  A  medical  certificate  of  death  is 

imperative  before  burial. 


Burials  are  regulated  by  the  Communal  Council  in  accordance  with 
law.  The  system  is  complicated,  but  thorough.  The  medical  men 
connected  with  the  Government  Medical  Service  ("Doctors  of  the 
Civil  Government")  have  the  sole  control  of  the  examinations  of  deaths, 
as  well  as  births,  accidents,  sudden  deaths,  suicides ;  and  attend  to 
burials,  autopsies,  postponements  of  burials,  etc.,  on  their  own  motion. 
Interments  usually  take  place  within  forty-eight  hours  of  death,  but 
they  may  be  carried  out  sooner  during  epidemics  for  the  public  safety. 

There  are  mortuaries  in  the  city  and  suburbs,  to  which  bodies  may 
be  taken  at  the  request  of  surviving  relatives,  or  by  the  order  of  the 
health  authorities,  according  to  private  necessities  or  for  the  public 
safety.  Except  by  the  special  authorisation  of  the  officers  of  the  civil 
government,  bodies  cannot  remain  in  the  mortuaries  longer  than  forty- 
eight  hours ;  and  a  burial  cannot  take  place  in  less  than  twenty-four 
hours.  Special  care  is  taken  to  test  the  reality  of  death  in  still-born 
infants,  and  efforts  are  made  to  revive  them,  as  well  as  all  other  cases 
of  seeming  death.  In  cases  of  women  dying  during  advanced  pregnancy, 
the  infant  must  be  roused  by  artificial  respiration,  in  order  to  restore 
animation  if  possible.  The  process  for  obtaining  a  delay  for  burial  is 
intricate  and  cumbersome,  and  to  a  foreigner  unaccustomed  to  the 
language  and  the  local  usages  the  chances  would  be  against  securing, 
such  a  permit  before  the  time  allowed  for  burial  had  expired. 


Mortuaries  are  connected  with  all  the  churches,  cemeteries,  and" 
some  of  the  hospitals,  and  are  growing  in  favour  in  the  country  places  ; 


but  as  yet  they  are  unprovided  with  any  appliances  for  the  resuscitation 
of  the  apparently  dead,  or  for  the  prevention  of  premature  burials.  No 
corpse,  however,  is  allowed  to  be  taken  to  a  mortuary  before  it  has 
been  inspected,  and  a  death-certificate  issued  by  a  qualified  physician  ; 
but,  when  this  is  done,  death  is  considered  absolute.  No  corpse  is 
allowed  to  remain  in  any  church,  chapel,  or  mortuary  longer  than 
seven  days  after  supposed  death,  without  special  permission.  Coffins  that 
contain  bodies  which  have  died  from  infectious  diseases  must  be  so 
indicated,  and  cannot  be  opened  in  the  mortuaries. 

As  a  rule,  bodies  are  kept  seventy-two  hours  before  burial.  The 
signs  that  are  considered  sufficient  to  establish  death  are  the  glazed 
appearance  of  the  eyes,  livid  spots  on  the  skin,  and  muscular  rigidity. 
In  doubtful  cases  the  time  before  burial  can  be  extended  by  authority 
of  the  Board  of  Health,  of  which  the  Police  Director  is  ;i  member1. 


Burials  usually  do  not  take  place  until  twenty-four  hour.-  after  death. 
For  example,  if  a  death  takes  place  about  four  p.m.,  the  burial  is  made 
late  in  the  following  afternoon.  In  time  of  epidemic  bodies  are 
hurried  to  the  cemeteries,  where  depositories  are  provided,  which  are 
under  the  care  of  watchers  until  the  expiration  of  twenty-four  hours 
after  death.  The  certificate  of  a  reputable  physician  as  to  death  is 
sufficient  to  authorise  burial.  Relatives  or  friends  usually  remain  with 
the  body  until  burial,  excepting  in  cases  when  judicial  proceedings  are 
held  over  it  to  determine  the  circumstances  of  the  death. 


There  are  no  laws  in  Ireland  regarding  the  disposal  of  the  dead,  but 
the  Sanitary  Acts  of  the  United  Kingdom  can  be  applied  in  any  case 
within  a  reasonable  period,  on  the  ground  of  public  health.  There  is 
no  fixed  period  for  keeping  a  body  before  burial.  The  Roman  Catholics 
usually  bury  on  the  third  or  fourth  day  after  death  ;  but  in  some 
districts  custom  sanctions  burial  within  twenty-four  or  thirty-six  hours. 
Local  burial  authorities  sometimes  require  a  medical  certificate  before 
burial,  but,  there  being  no  legal  obligation  for  it,  this  is  often  omitted. 
In  cases  of  suicide,  sudden  death,  or  death  by  violence,  the  coroner 
holds  an  inquest,  and  gives  a  certificate  accordingly. 

There  are  no  dead-houses  in  Ireland,  where  bodies  may  be  observed 
for  a  period  of  time  before  burial. 


Concerning  burials  in  England,  see  Glen's  "Burial  Acts"  for  the 
general  burial  practice;  also  "Regulations  for  Wilton  Cemetery." 


In  the  United  States  of  America,  as  a  rule,  everything  relative  to  the 
disposal  of  the  dead  is  regulated  by  local  Boards  of  Health,  as  authorised! 
by  State  laws.  A  burial  cannot  take  place  without  a  certificate  from 
a  legally  licensed  physician,  which  must  state  the  cause  of  death  ;  the 
place  and  time  when  it  occurred ;  the  full  name,  age,  sex,  colour, 
occupation,  birthplace  ;  names  and  birthplaces  of  both  parents.  There 
are  no  laws  or  regulations  that  require  the  inspection  of  the  body  to 
verify  the  fact  of  death  (the  certificate,  as  in  England,  as  to  the  cause 
is  considered  sufficient  for  this  purpose),  and  no  time  is  fixed  when  a 
body  must  or  must  not  be  buried.  This  is  regulated  by  and  left  to 
the  convenience  of  the  family  of  the  deceased,  by  the  season  of  the 
year,  by  the  opinion  of  the  attending  physician,  etc.  But  the  health 
officers  can  order  the  burial  whenever,  in  their  opinion,  the  public 
health  requires  it.  As  a  rule,  burials  after  supposed  death  are  made 
sooner  in  the  South,  and  among  the  poor,  than  in  the  North,  and 
among  the  well-to-do  classes.  In  remote  unsettled  regions  burials  not 
seldom  take  place  without  these  formalities,  and  they  are  often  carried 
out  in  a  hasty  manner ;  but  usually  they  do  not  take  place  till  three 
days  after  supposed  death,  and  sometimes,  particularly  in  cold  weather, 
a  longer  time  is  allowed.  All  large  cemeteries  have  chambers  for  the 
temporary  deposit  of  bodies,  but  they  are  not  under  observation,  as  it 
is  taken  for  granted  that  they  are  dead. 


The  Swiss  legislation  relating  to  burials  is  committed  to  the  authority 
of  the  several  cantons.  The  death  is  verified  by  a  physician  or  an  official 
person  appointed  for  that  purpose.  The  minimum  time  allowed  between 
death  and  interment  is  fixed  by  each  canton.  In  five  cantons  the  time 
limit  is  twenty -four  hours  ;  in  one  it  is  fixed  at  thirty-two  hours  ;  in  two. 
at  thirty-six  hours  ;  in  fourteen  cantons  the  period  is  four  days  ;  and  in 
one  it  is  six  %iys.  In  some  cantons  the  period  of  waiting  is  extended 
during  winter  time  ;  and  in  some  instances — cases  of  swoonr  apoplexy, 
etc. — a  further  extension  of  time  is  ordered.  In  the  majority  of  cantons, 
it  is  expressly  forbidden  to  close  the  coffin  until  immediately  before  the 
departure  of  the  coffin. 



R.  J.  WUNDERHAR,  in  his  standard  work  on  "  Biblisch-talmudische 
Medicin,"  Riga  and  Leipzig,  1850-60,  gives,  in  pp.  5-15  of  the  con- 
cluding section  (Abtheil.  4,  Bd.  ii.),  the  following  summary  of  the 
origin  of  the  peculiar  Jewish  practice  of  burying  the  corpse  within  a 
few  hours  of  death  :  — 

In  the  Levitical  law  (Num.  xix.  11-22)  every  dead  body  was  an 
unclean  thing,  including  those  dead  in  the  tent  and  on  the  battlefield. 
Touching  a  corpse  involved  purification  and  separation  for  seven  days. 
This  ordinance  is  supposed  to  have  had  a  sanitary  motive,  having 
probably  originated  with  cases  of  infectious  disease.  There  is  only 
one  Biblical  ordinance  as  to  early  burial,  and  that  is  indubitably 
restricted  to  persons  executed  for  crime:  Deut.  xxi.  22,  23,  "And 
if  a  man  have  committed  a  sin  worthy  of  death,  and  he  be  put  to 
death,  and  thou  hang  him  on  a  tree,  his  body  shall  not  remain  all  night 
upon  the  tree,  but  thou  shalt  in  any  wise  bury  him  that  day  (for  he 
that  is  hanged  is  accursed  of  God),  that  thy  land  be  not  defiled, 
which  the  Lord  thy  God  giveth  thee  for  an  inheritance."  This 
statutory  limit  to  the  exposure  of  the  bodies  of  malefactors  was  the 
;most  convenient  way  of  checking  the  practice,  common  in  othei 
.countries,  of  leaving  corpses  of  criminals  to  hang  upon  the  gibbet 
until  they  rotted  or  were  consumed  by  birds  of  prey.  Its  motive 
was  to  prevent,  by  the  promptest  measure,  an  indefinite  degree  of 
neglect  in  altogether  special  cases. 

There  is  nothing  else  in  the  Bible  concerning  early  burial ;  on  the 
contrary,  the  patriarchal  practice,  in  the  case  of  eminent  persons,  seems 
to  have  been  to  keep  the  body  for  a  considerable  time  above  ground, 
after  the  manner  of  Egypt.  Prior  to  the  Babylonian  exile  there  is  not  a 
trace  of  the  latt-r  practice  of  speedy  burial.  The  post-Talmudic  custom 
had  arisen  entirely  from  a  misunderstanding.  It  is  true  that  the  Talmud 
enjoins  that  corpses — according  to  circumstances — be  kept  unburied  not 
longer  than  one  day;  but  it  also  permits  them  to  lie  above  ground  for 
days,  so  that  elaborate  funeral  preparations  might  be  mad^  or  time  given 
for  mourners  to  arrive  from  a  distance.  Lastly,  the  Talmud  relates  the 
burial  of  one  apparently  dead,  who  revived  and  lived  for  twenty-five 
years,  and  begat  five  children;  whereupon  a  rabbinical  ordinance  was 
made  that  the  corpse  (which  would  have  been  laid  in  a  vault  or  in  a  tomb 


:above  ground)  should  be  visited  diligently  until  three  days  after  death. 
•{The  references  to  the  Talmud  are:  Semachoth  8;  Moedkaton  I,  6; 
Sabbat  151,  152;  Sanhedrin,  46a.) 

Wunderbar  admits  that  there  had  been  cases  of  premature  burial 
among  the  Jews,  but  he  asserts  their  extreme  rarity,  and  doubts  the 
-authenticity  of  most  of  the  traditional  or  historical  cases  in  general. 

In  Jewish  circles  in  Germany,  towards  the  end  of  the  i8th  century,  there- 
was  much  controversy  as  to  the  inexpediency  of  the  practice  of  early 
burial.  In  the  Berlinische  Monatschrift  for  April,  1787,  p.  329, 
(cited  by  Marcus  Ilerz,  "  Ueber  die  friihe  Beerdigung  der  Juden,"' 
Berlin,  1788,  p.  6),  there  is  printed  a  letter  from  Moses  Mendelssohn 
to  the  Jews  of  Mecklenburg,  in  which  he  advises  them  to  keep  their 
dead  unburied  for  three  days.  "I  know  well,"  he  adds,  "that  you 
will  not  follow  my  advice ;  for  the  might  of  custom  is  great.  Nay,  I 
shall  perhaps  appear  to  you  as  a  heretic  on  account  of  my  counsel. 
All  the  same,  I  have  freed  my  conscience  from  guilt." 

The  above-cited  essay  by  Dr.  Marcus  Herz,  of  Berlin,  arguing  against 
the  Jewish  practice,  called  forth  a  reply  by  Dr.  Marz,  of  Hanover, 
who  was  of  opinion  that  the  burial  might  safely  proceed  after  the  body 
had  been  left  on  the  bed  for  three  hours,  and  had  then  been  pronounced 
lifeless  by  the  medical  attendant,  according  to  the  practice  in  that  part 

•  of  the  country.      To  that  Dr.   Herz  rejoined,  in  a  second  edition,  that 
the    medical    attendant   was    no    better    judge    than   an   ordinary   man, 
inasmuch   as   all   experimental   tests   were  fallacious,   and   decomposition 
the  only  sure  sign.     He  cites  the  following  statement  by  an  experienced 
Jewish    physician,    Dr.    Hirschberg,    of    Konigsberg    (from    the    Jewish 
periodical   Sammler,    vol.    ii.,    p.    153):  —  "I    have    practised    medicine 
for  forty  years,  and  have  always  grieved  over  the  practice  amongst   us 
of  too  hasty  burial  of  the  dead — on  the  day  of  decease.      It  happened 
once  in  my  practice  that  a  woman  lay  for   dead   three   days   and  then 

.awoke  and  revived.  At  first  I  would  not  allow  the  body  to  be  moved 
from  the  bed,  but  the  undertaker's  men  violently  resisted  me,  taking 
up  the  body  and  laying  it  on  the  ground.  According  to  their  custom, 
they  would  have  buried  it  the  same  day,  had  I  not  earnestly  called 

•  out   to  them:    'Beware   lest   you   do   lay  her   in   the  ground  this  day! 
She  is  still  alive,  and  the  blame  will  be  on  you.'      I  had  her  covered 
with  warm,  woollen  clothes ;    on  the  following  morning  some   signs   of 
.life    were    manifest  ;    she    lay   still,    and    gradually   awoke    out    of   her 

Herz  declared,  as  Wunderbar  did  subsequently,  that  the  passages  in 


the  Talmud  on  vvh-ich  the  Jewish  custom  was  based  had  been  mis- 
interpreted: and  he  specially  accused  the  rabbis  Jacob  Emden,  of  Altona, 
and  Ezechel,  of  Prague,  of  rabbinical  subtilty  on  the  one  hand,  and 
of  a  fallacious  dependence  upon  scientific  signs  of  death  on  the  other. 

At  the  World's  Medical  Congress  (Division  of  Eclectic  Medicine), 
held  in  Chicago,  July  3,  1893,  tne  following  resolution  was  proposed 
by  Dr.  John  V.  Stevens,  and  adopted  :  — 

"  Whereas  we  believe  that  many  persons  in  the  past,  in  the  condition 
simulating  death  from  various  causes,  have  been  buried  alive  ; 

'4  Resolved — That  it  should  be  the  duty  of  all  Governments  to 
pass  laws  prohibiting  the  burial  of  bodies  without  positive  proofs 
of  death  ;  that  the  nature  of  these  proofs  should  be  taught  in  all 
schools  and  printed  in  all  newspapers  throughout  the  world.'' 



KORNMANNUS  (Henncus).     De  rairaculis  mortuorum.     Francot.,   1610. 
TIRELLUS  (Mauritius).     De  causis  mortis  repentinae.     \7enet.,  1615. 

ZACCHIAS  (Paulus).  Quaestiones  medico-legales.  Lib.  iv.  cap.  i., 
quaest.  xi.,  "  De  mortuorum  resurrectione,"  fol.  241-247  editio 
tertia.  Amstelaedami,  1651. 

[Gives  many  of  the  classical  cases,  with  critical  remarks.] 

KIRCHMAIER  (Theodor)  and  NOTTNAGEL  (Christoph).  Elegantissimum 
ex  physicis  thema  de  hominibus  apparenter  mortuis.  Wittenbergae, 

[Collects  cases,  from  ancient  and  more  recent  writers,  of  the 
apparently  dead  having  been  taken  for  dead: — Pliny,  Hist.  Nat., 
lib.  vii.  52;  Plutarch,  De  sera  numinis  vindicta ;  Apuleius,  Flori- 
dorum,  lib.  vi.  ;  St.  Augustine,  De  cura  mortuorum  ;  Thuanus  (no 
ref.);  Diomed  Cornarus,  Hist,  admirand.  (case  of  a  Madrid  lady 
who  is  supposed  to  have  given  birth  to  a  child  after  she  was  laid 
in  the  tomb,  the  corpse  having  a  new-born  dead  infant  in  the  righi 
hand  when  the  vault  was  opened  a  few  months  after)  ;  Chr. 
Landinus,  notes  to  Virgil,  Mn.  vi.  (incident  at  a  funeral,  of  which 
he  was  an  eye-witness  at  Florence)  ;  Horst.  Med.  mir.,  cap.  ix. 
(woman  left  for  dead  of  the  plague  at  Cologne  in  1357)  ;  and  the 
case  of  a  glazier,  then  living  at  Wittenberg,  who  was  treated  as 
dead  when  a  child  of  three  years.] 

GARMANN  (L.  Christ.  Frid.).  De  miraculis  mortuorum  libri  tres, 
quibus  praemissa  dissertatio  de  cadavere  et  miraculis  in  genere. 
Opus  physico-medicum  curiosis  observationibus  experimentis  aliisque 
rebus  exornatum.  Ed.  L.  J.  H.  Garmann.  Dresden  and  Leipzig, 
1709.  (First  ed.,  Leipzig.  1670.) 

BEBEL  (Bajthasar).     Dissertatio  de  bis  mortuis.     Jena,   1672. 



HAWES  (Dr.).  On  the  duty  of  the  relations  of  those  who  are  in 
dangerous  illness,  and  the  hazard  of  hasty  interment.  A  sermon 
preached  in  the  Presbyterian  Chapel  of  Lancaster  in  1703,  wherein  it 
is  clearly  proved,  from  the  attestation  of  unexceptionable  witnesses, 
that  many  persons  have  been  buried  alive. 

LANCLSI  (Johannes  M.).  De  subitaneis  mortibus  libri  duo.  Romae,, 
1707  ;  Lucae,  1707  ;  Lipsiae,  1709. 

WILFROTH  (Johannes  Christianus).  Dissertatio  de  resuscitatione  semi- 
mortuorum  medica.  Halae,  1725. 

RANFT  (Michael).  Tractat  von  den  Kauen  und  Schmatzen  der  Todten 
in  Grabern,  worin  die  wahre  Beschaffenheit  derer  Hungarischen 
Vampyrs  gezeight,  etc.  Leipzig,  1734. 

BEYSCHLAG  (Fr.   fac.).     Sylloge  variorum  opusculorum.      "  De  hominum 

a  morte  resuscitatorum  exemplis."     Halae  Sueviorum,   1727-31- 

WINSLOW  (Jacques  Benigne),  Professor  of  Anatomy  at  Paris.  An 
mortis  incertse  signa  minus  incerta  a  chirurgicis  quam  ab  aliis 
experimentis.  Paris,  174°-  Dissertation. 

Dissertation  sur  1'incertitude  des  signes  de  la  mort,  et  1'abus 

des  enterremens  et  embaumemens  precipites  ;  traduite  et  commentee 
par  Jacques  Jean  Bruhier.     Paris,   1742.     (With  the  Latin  text.) 

BRUHIER  (Jacques  Jean),  d'Ablaincourt.  Memoire  sur  la  necessite  d'un 
reglement  general  au  sujet  des  enterremens  et  embaumemens — 
addition  au  memoire  presente  au  Roi.  Paris,  1745-46. 

Dissertation  sur  1'incertitude  des  signes  de  la  mort,  et  1'abus 
des  enterrements  et  embaumemens  precipites.  Second  ed.  Two 
vols.  Paris,  1749. 

-     The   uncertainty   of  the   signs   of   death,    and   the   danger   of 
precipitate  interments  and  dissections.     Second  ed.     London,   I751- 

[Bruhier,  in  his  work  Dissertations  sur  1'incertitude  des  signes  de 
la  mort  et  1'abus  des  enterremens,  produces  accounts  of  one  hundred 
and  eighty-one  cases,  among  which  there  are  those  of  fifty- two 
persons  buried  alive,  four  dissected  alive,  fifty-three  that  awoke  in 
their  coffins  before  being  buried,  and  seventy-two  other  cases  of 
apparent  death.] 


ANON.  The  uncertainty  of  the  signs  of  death,  and  the  danger  of 
precipitate  interments  and  dissections  demonstrated.  Dublin,  1748. 

COOPER  (M).  Uncertainty  of  the  signs  of  death,  precipitate  interment 
and  dissection,  and  funeral  solemnities.  London,  1746. 

JANKE  (J.  G.)  Abhandlung  von  der  Ungewissheit  der  Kennzeichen  des 
Todes.  Leipzig,  1 749. 

Louis  (Antoine).  Six  lettres  sur  la  certitude  des  signes  de  la  mort,  oil 
1'on  rassure  les  citoyens  de  la  crainte  d'etre  enterres  vivants  ;  avec 
des  observations  et  des  experiences  sur  les  noyes,  Paris,  I752- 

PI.AZ  (Antonius  Gulielmus).  De  signis  mortis  non  solute  explorandis. 
Specimen  primum,  Lipsiae,  1765;  secundum,  1766;  tertium,  1766; 
quartum,  1767. 

De  mortuis  curandis.     Diss.     Lipsiae,   1770. 

MENGHIN  (Joh.  Mich.  de).  Diss.  de  incertitudine  signorum  vitae  et 
mortis.  Vienna,  1768. 

KSCHENBACH  (Christ.  Ehrenfr.).     De  apparenter  mortuis.    Vienna,  1768. 

JANIN  DE  COMBE  BLANCHE  (Jean).  Reflexions  sur  le  triste  sort  de 
personnes  qui  sous  un  apparance  de  mort  ont  etc  enterrees  vivant, 
etc.  Paris,  1774. 

DE  GARDANE  (Joseph  Jacques).      Avis  au  peuple  sur  les  asphyxies  ou 

morts    apparentes    et    subites.      Paris,     1774.  Portuguese     transl. 

included     in    Avisos     interessanles     sobre     as  mortes    apparentes. 
Lisbon,  1790. 

Catechisme   sur   les   morts    apparentes,    dites    asphyxies,    etc. 

Paris,   1781. 

NAVIER  (Pierre  Toussaint).  Reflexions  sur  les  dangers  des  inhumations 
precipitees  et  sur  les  abus  des  inhumations  dans  les  eglises,  etc. 
Paris,  1775. 

PINEAU  ( ).     Memoire  sur  le  danger  des  inhumations  precipitees,  et 

sur  la  necessite  d'un  reglement  pour  mettre  les  citoyens  a  1'abri  du 
malheur  d'etre  enterres  vivants.     Niort,   1776. 

MARET  (Hugues).  Memoire  pour  rappeler  a  la  vie  les  personnes  en 
etat  de  mort  apparente.  Dijon,  1776. 


BKIXKMANX  ([oh.  Pet.).  Beweis  der  Moglichkeit  dass  einige  Leute 
konnen  lebendig  begraben  werden,  etc.  Dtisseldorf,  1777- 

S \VIKTEN  (Karon  Geerard  Van).     I)e  morte  dubia.     Vienna,   1778. 
TESTA  (Antonio  Guiseppe).     Delia  morte  apparente.     Firenze,   1780. 

Doi'i'ET  (F.A. ).  Des  moyens  de  rappeler  a  la  vie  les  personnes  qui  ont 
toutes  les  apparences  de  la  mort.  Chambery,  1785. 

[In  1784  the  Imperial  and  Royal  Academy  of  Sciences,  etc.,  of 
Brussels  proposed  as  a  subject  for  a  prize  essay,  What  are  the 
means  that  can  be  employed  by  medicine  and  police  to  prevent  the 
dangerous  mistakes  of  premature  burial  ?] 

WAUTERS  (Pierre  Englebert).  Responsum  ad  quaesitutn,  Quae  turn 
medica,  turn  politica  praesidia  adversus  periculosas  inhumationum 
praefestinatarum  abusus?  Reprinted  from  the  Mem.  Acad.  Imper. 
et  Roy.  de  Sc.  de  Bruxelles.  Bruxelles,  1787  [1788]. 

PREVI.XAIRE  (P.  [.  B. ).  Memoire  sur  la  question  suivante  proposee  en 
1784  par  1' academic  imperiale  et  royale  des  sciences,  belles-lettres,  et 
arts  de  Bruxelles :  Ouels  sont  les  moyens  que  la  medecine  et  la 
police  pourroient  employer  pour  prevenir  les  erreurs  dangereuses  des 
enterremens  precipitees?  Ouvrage  <jui  a  concouru  pour  la  prix  de 
Tannc-e  1786.  Bruxelles,  1787. 

The    above    in    a    German    translation    by    Bernhard    Gottlob 
Schreger.        Leip/.ig,   1790. 

LEIHM.X  (Gul.  Petrus).  De  signis  mortis  rite  aestimandis.  Hardervici, 
1787.  Thesis. 

TuiKRY  (Franciscus).  La  vie  de  I'homme  respectee  et  defendue  dans 
ses  derniers  moments  ;  ou  instruction  sur  les  soins  qu'on  doit  aux 
morts,  et  a  ceux  qui  parrissent  1'etre  :  sur  les  funerailles  et  les 
sepultures.  Paris.  1787. 

STEINKELD  (Johannes  Christianus).  De  signis  mortis  diagnosticis  dubiis 
caute  admittendis  et  reprobandis.  Thesis.  [ena,  1788. 

HERZ  (Marcus).  Ueber  die  fri'the  Beerdigung  der  Juden.  Zweite 
vermehrte  Auflage.  Berlin,  1788. 

DURANDK  ([.  Fi. ).  Memoire  sur  1'abus  de  l'ensevelissement  des  morts, 
etc.  Strasbourg,  1789. 


DE  HUPSCH  (Baron  Job.  Wilh.  Carl  Adolph).  Nouvelle  decouverte 
d'une  methode  peu  couteuse,  efficace  et  assuree  de  trailer  tous  les 
hommes  decedes  afin  de  rappeler  a  la  vie  ceux  qui  ne  sont  morts 
qu'en  apparence.  Cologne,  1789. 

ANON.  Des  inhumations  precipitees.  Paris,  1790.  (Attributed  by 
Barbier  to  Madame  Necker.) 

FAHNER.  Lancisius  von  den  verschiedenen  plotzlichen  Todesarten 
ihren  Ursachen,  Kennzeichen  und  Rettungsmitteln.  190  pp. 
Leipzig,  1790. 

HUFELAND  (Christoph  W.).  Ueber  die  Ungewissheit  des  Todes,  und  das 
einzige  untriigliche  Mittel  .  .  .  das  Lebendigbegraben  unmoglich 
zu  machen,  etc.  Salzburg,  1791  ;  Halle,  1824. 

REINHARDT  (Julius  Christophorus).  Dissertatio  de  vano  prematurae 
sepulturae  metu.  Jena,  1793. 

MARCELLO  (Marin).  Osservazioni  teoriche-pratiche-mediche  sopra  le  morti 
apparenti.  Two  vols.,  with  nine  plates.  Venezia,  1793. 

ANSCHEL  (Salomon).  Thanatologia,  sive  in  mortis  naturam  causas 
genera,  etc.,  disquisitiones.  Goettingae,  1795. 

HIMLY  (Carolus).  Commentatio  mortis  historian!  causas  et  signa  sistens. 
Goettingae,  1795. 

PESSLER  (B.  G. ).  Leicht  anwendbarer  Beystand  der  Mechanik  um  Schein 
todte  beim  Erwachen  im  Grabe  auf  die  wohlfeilste  Art  wieder  daraus 
zu  erretten.  Braunschweig,  1798. 

DESESSARTZ  (Jean  Charles).  Discours  sur  les  inhumations  precipitees. 
Paris,  an  vii.  (1798). 

KOPPEN  (Heinrich  Friedrich).  Nachrichten  von  Menschen  welche 
lebendig  begraben  worden.  A  Is  erster  Theil  des  Buchs  :  Achtung 
der  Scheintodten.  Halle,  1799.  (Dedication  to  Friedrich  Wilhelm 
III.,  King  of  Prussia,  Queen  Louise,  and  Friedrich  August,  Prince 
of  Hesse  Darmstadt.) 



GRUNER  (Jacobus).  Dissertatio  inauguralis  de  causa  mortis  submer- 
sorum  eorumque  resuscitatione  observationibus  indagata.  Groningae, 

Memoirs  of  the  society  instituted  at  Amsterdam  in  favour  of  drowned 
persons.  For  the  years  1767-71.  Translated  by  Thomas  Logan,  M.I). 
London,  1772. 

JOHNSON  (Alexander),  M.D.  A  short  account  of  a  society  in  Amster- 
dam ...  for  the  recovery  of  drowned  persons  ;  with  observa- 
tions showing  the  advantage  ...  to  Great  Britain  from  a  similar 
institution  .  .  .  Extended  to  other  accidents.  London,  177  }. 

-  A  collection  of  cases  proving  the  practicability  of  recovering 
persons  visibly  dead,  etc.     London.   1773. 

-  Relief  from  accidental  death  ;  or,  summary  instructions  for  the 

general  institution  proposed  in   17/3.     London,   1785. 
Abridged  instructions.      London,   1785. 

CULLEN  (W. ),  M.D.  A  letter  to  Lord  Cathcart  concerning  the  recovery 
of  the  drowned  and  seemingly  dead.  London,  1773. 

HTNTKR  (John).  Proposals  for  the  recovery  of  persons  apparently 
drowned.  Phil.  Trans.  1776. 

HA  WES  (William),  M.D.  An  address  to  the  public  [concerning  the 
dangerous  custom  of  laying  out  persons  as  soon  as  respiration  ceases ). 
With  a  reply  by  W.  Renwick,  and  observations  on  that  reply. 
London,  1778. 

FULLER  (John),  M.D.  Some  hints  relative  to  the  recovery  of  persons 
drowned  and  apparently  dead.  London,  1784. 

KITE  (Charles),  of  Gravesend.  An  essay  on  the  recovery  of  the  ap- 
parently dead.  London,  1788. 

Essay  on  the  submersions  of  animals.     London,   1795. 

Reports  of  the  Humane  Society  for  the  recovery  of  persons  apparently 
drowned.     For  the  years  1777-80  and   1785-86.     London. 


The  transactions  of  the  Royal  Humane  Society  from  1774  to  1784.  With 
an  appendix  of  miscellaneous  observations  on  suspended  animation. 
Edited  by  W.  Hawes,  M.D.  London,  1794. 

FRANKS  (John).  Observations  on  animal  life  and  apparent  death.  With 
remarks  on  the  Brunonian  system  of  medicine.  London,  1790. 

The  same  in  an  Italian  translation.     Pavia,   1795. 

GOODWYX  (Edmund),  M.D.  De  rnorbo  morteque  submersorum  investi- 
gandis.  Thesis.  Edin.,  1786. 

The  connection  of  life  with  respiration ;   or,  an   experimental 

inquiry  into  the  effects  of  submersion,  strangulation,  and  several  kinds 
of  noxious  airs  on  living  animals ;  with  an  account  of  the  nature  of 
the  diseases  they  produce,  and  the  most  effectual  means  of  cure. 
London,  1788. 

Reflections  on  premature  death  and  premature  interment.  Published  by 
the  Humane  Society.  Rochester,  1787. 

ANON.  An  essay  on  vital  suspension  :  being  an  attempt  to  investigate  and 
ascertain  those  diseases  in  which  the  principles  of  life  are  apparently 
extinguished.  By  a  Medical  Practitioner.  London,  1791. 

HAMILTON  (Robert),  M.D.  Rules  for  recovering  persons  recently- 
drowned.  London,  1795. 

Directions  for  recovering  persons  apparently  dead  from  drowning,  and 
from  disorders  occasioned  by  cold  liquors.  Published  by  the  Humane 
Society.  Philadelphia. 

CURRY  (James).  Popular  observations  on  apparent  death  from  drowning, 
suffocation,  etc.  Northampton,  1792;  London,  1793,  I797>  l%45' 
French  transl.  by  Odier,  Geneva,  1800. 

FOTHERGILL  (Anthony).  Inquiry  into  the  suspension  of  vital  action  in 
drowning  and  suffocation.  Third  ed.  Bath,  1794. 

Preventive   plan  ;    or,   hints   for   the   preservation   of   persons 

exposed  to  accidents  which  suspend  vital  action.     London,   1798. 

CAILLEAU  (J.  M.).  Memoire  sur  1'asphyxie  par  submersion.  Bordeaux, 

BICHAT  (M.  F.  Xavier).  Recherches  physiologiques  sur  la  vie  et  la  mort. 
Paris,  1800,  1805,  etc. 



COLEMAN  (Edward).  Dissertation  on  natural  and  suspended  respiration. 
Second  ed.  London,  1802. 

STROVE  (Christian  August).  A  practical  essay  on  the  art  of  recovering 
suspended  animation.  Transl.  from  the  German.  Second  ed. 
London,  1802. 

OSWALD  (John).  On  the  phenomena  of  suspended  animation  from 
drowning,  hanging,  etc.,  together  with  the  most  expeditious  mode  of 
treatment.  Philad.,  1802. 

LUGA  ( ).      Traitement  des  asphyxies,  ou  moyen  de  rendre  impossible 

1'enterrement  de  personnes  vivantes.     Paris,  1804. 

ACKERMANN  (J.  F. ).  Der  Scheintod  und  das  Rettungsverfahren. 
Frankft. ,  1804. 

BURKE  (William).     On  suspended  animation,  etc.     London,   1805. 

BERGER  (J.  F.).  Essai  physiologique  sur  la  cause  de  1'asphyxie  par 
submersion.  Paris,  1805. 

THOMASSIN  (J.  Frang.).  Considerations  de  police  medicale,  sur  la  mort 
apparente,  et  sur  le  danger  des  inhumations  precipitees.  Strasbourg, 
1805.  Also  an  earlier  essay  on  same  subject,  with  Durande,  in 

DAVIS  ( ).     L'abus  des  enterrements  precipitees.      Moyens  de  rappeler 

a  la  vie  les  personnes  en  etat  de  mort  apparente.     Verdun,   1806. 

BARZELOTTI  (Giac. ).  Memoria  per  servire  di  avviso  al  populo  sulle 
asfisse  o  morte  apparente.  Parma,  1808. 

MARC  (C.  C.  H.).  Des  moyens  de  constater  la  mort  par  submersion. 
(Manuel  de  1'Autopsie,  par  Rose,  transl.  from  the  German.)  Paris. 

COLORINI  (Ant.).      Sulle  varie  morti  apparenti,  etc.      Pavia,   1813. 

PORTAL  (A.).  Sur  le  traitement  des  asphyxies:  avec  observations  sur  les 
signes  qui  distinguent  la  mort  reelle  de  celle  qui  n'est  qu'  apparente. 
Paris,  1816. 


ORFII.A  (F).  Directions  for  the  treatment  of  persons  who  have  taken 
poison,  and  those  in  a  state  of  apparent  death.  Transl.  from  the 
French  by  R.  H.  Black.  Other  transl.  by  W.  Price,  M.D.  Both 
at  London,  1818. 

SNART  (John).  Thesaurus  of  horror  ;  or,  the  charnel-house  explored. 
London,  1817. 

An   historical    inquiry   concerning    apparent   death   and    pre- 
mature interment.      London,   1824. 

VAI.PY  (R.).  Sermon  before  the  Royal  Humane  Society,  with  observa- 
tions on  resuscitation.  Norwich,  1819. 

WHITER  (Rev.  W.).  A  dissertation  on  the  disorder  called  suspended 
animation.  Norwich,  1819. 

CHAUSSIER   ( ).      Vivants   cms  morts,  et  moyens  de   prevenir  cette 

erreur.     Paris,   1819. 

DONNDORF  (J.  A.).  Ueber  Tod,  Scheintod,  und  zu  friihe  Beerdigung. 
Quedlinburg,  1820. 

HERTIN  (M.).  Instruction  sur  les  soins  a  donner  aux  personnes  asphyxiees. 
Paris,  1822. 

KAISER  (Ch.  L.).  Ueber  Tod  und  Scheintod,  oder  die  Gefahren  des 
friihen  Begrabens.  Frankfurt-am- Main,  1823. 

CALHOUN  (T.).     An  essay  on  suspended  animation.      Philad.,  1823. 

BUNOUST  (Marin).  Vues  philanthropiques  sur  Tabus  des  enterrements 
precipites,  precautions  a  prendre  pour  que  les  vivants  ne  soient  pas 
confondus  avec  les  morts.  Arras,  1826. 

SPEYER  (Carl  F. ).  Ueber  die  Moglichkeit  des  Lebendigbegrabens,  und 
die  Einrichtung  von  Leichenhausern.  Erlangen,  1826. 

CHANTOURELLE  ( ).     Paper  at  the   Royal   Academy  of  Medicine  of 

Paris,  on  the  danger  of  premature  burial,  etc.,  with  discussion 
thereon,  loth  and  27th  April,  1827.  Archives  generates  de  medecine, 
vol.  xiv.  (1827),  p.  103. 

GUNTHER  (Johann  Arnold).  Geschichte  und  Einrichtung  der  Hambur- 
gischen  Rettungs-Anstalten  fiir  im  Wasser  verungliickte  Menschen. 
Hamburg,  1828. 


TAIJKRGER  (Job.  Gottf. ).  Der  Scheintod  in  seinen  Beziehungen  auf  das 
Erwachen  in  Grabe  und  die  verchiedenen  Yorschlage  zu  einer  \virk- 
samen  .  .  .  Retlung  in  Fallen  dieser  Art.  With  a  copper  plate. 
Hannover,  i82Q. 

BOURGEOIS  y<).  Observations  et  considerations  pratiques  qui  etablissent 
la  possibility  du  retour  a  la  vie  dans  plusieurs  cas  d'asphyxie  et  de- 
syncope  prolongee  avec  apparence  de  la  mort.  8vo.  Paris,  1829. 

SciiNElDAWiND  ( Kranz  (oseph  Adolph).  Der  Scheintod,  nebst  Unter- 
scheidung  des  scheinbaren  und  wahren  Todes,  und  Mitteln,  etc. 
Bamberg,  1829. 

WALKER  (G.   A.).     (Gatherings  from  graveyards,  etc.     London,  1830. 

TACHERON.  De  la  verification  legale  des  deces  dans  la  ville  de  Parisr 
et  de  la  necessite  d'apporter  dans  ce  service  medical  plus  de- 
surveillance.  Paris,  1830. 

PiciiARD  ( ).      Le  danger  des  inhumations  precipitees.      Paris,  1830, 

CHAUSSIKR  (Hector).  Histoire  des  infortunes  qui  ont  ete  enterres- 
vivants.  Paris,  1833. 

DESKERCJER  (Ant.  F.  A.).  Tod  und  Scheintod,  Leichen-und-Begrabungs- 
wesen  als  \\ichtige  Angelegenheit  der  einzelnen  Menschen  und  des- 
Staates.  Leipzig,  1833. 

KOUCHARD  (P).  Apercu  general  des  precautions  prises  en  France  avant 
I'inhumation  des  citoyens  morts ;  reforme  (|ue  1'humanite  reclame. 
Tours,  1833. 

SOMMER   ( ).       De  signis  mortem  hominis  absolutam  ;mie  putredinis- 

accessum  indicantibus.      Havniae,  1833. 

M ANNI  (Pietro),  professor  at  Rome.  Manuale  pratico  per  la  cura  degli 
apparentemente  morti,  premessevi  alcune  idee  generali  di  polizia 
medica  per  la  tutela  della  vita  degli  asfittici.  Roma,  1833.  Napoli, 
1835.  (Jerm.  transl.  by  A.  ¥.  Fischer,  Leipzig,  1839. 

I)E  FONTENEI.I.K  (|ulia).  Recherches  medico-legales  sur  1'incertitude  des 
signes  de  la  mort,  les  dangers  des  inhumations  precipitees,  les  moyens- 
de  constater  les  deces  et  de  rappeler  a  la  vie  ceux  qui  sont  en  etat  de 
mort  apparente.  Paris,  1834. 


SCHWABE  (C).  Das  Leichenhaus  in  Weimar.  Nebst  einigen  Worten  iiber 
den  Scheintod  und  mehrer  jetzt  bestehender  Leichenhauser,  sowie 
viber  die  zweckmassigste  Einrichtung  solcher  Anstalten  im  Allge- 
meinen.  Leipzig,  1834. 

KAY  (J.  P.).  The  physiology,  pathology,  and  treatment  of  asphyxia, 
including  suspended  animation  in  new-born  children,  and  from 
drowning,  hanging,  wounds  of  the  chest,  mechanical  obstruction  of 
the  air-passages,  respiration  of  gases,  death  from  cold,  etc.  London, 

KOOL  (J.  A.).  Tabellarisch  overzigt  over  alle  gevallen  von  schijndoode 
drenkelingen,  gestikten,  en  gehangenen,  bekroond  door  de  Maat- 
schappij  tot  Redding  van  Drenkelingen,  opgerigt  in  den  jare  1767  te 
Amsterdam.  Sedert  hare  stichting  tot  en  met  den  jare  1833  [-53].  Uit 
authentieke  stukken  opgemaakt  en  met  opmerkingen  voorzien. 
Four  vols.  Amsterdam,  1834-54. 

LEGALLOIS  (C).  Experiences  physiologiques  sur  les  animaux  tendant  a 
faire  connaitre  le  temps  durant  lequel  ils  peuvent  etre  sans  danger 
prives  de  la  respiration,  etc.  Paris,  1835. 

MARC  (C.  C.  H.).  Nouvelles  recherches  sur  les  recours  a  donner  aux 
noyes  et  asphyxies.  Paris,  1835. 

SIMON  (L.  C.).  Quelques  mots  sur  les  enterrements  prematures,  et  sur 
les  precautions  a  prendre  sur-le-champ,  relativement  aux  noyes  et 
asphyxies.  St.  Petersbourg,  1835. 

TWEDELL  (H.  M.).  Account  of  a  man  who  submitted  to  be  buried 
alive  for  a  month  at  Jaisulmer,  and  was  dug  out  alive  at  the 
expiration  of  that  period.  India  Journal  of  Med.  and  Physic.  Sc. 
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LE  GUERN  (H.).     Rosoline,  ou  les  mysteres  de  la  tombe.     Paris,  1834. 

Du  danger  des  inhumations  precipitees,  exemples  tant  anciens 
que  recents  de  personnes  enterrees  ou  dissequees  de  leur  vivant. 
Paris,  1837,  1844. 

Encore  un  mot,  etc.     Paris,  1843. 

LESSING  (Mich.  Bened.).  Ueber  die  Unsicherheit  der  Erkenntniss  des 
erloschenen  Lebens,  etc.  Berlin,  1836. 


S(  HNACKENHERG  (Wilh.  Ph.  J.).  Ueber  die  Nothwendigkeit  der 
Leichenhallen  zur  Verhiitung  des  Erwachens  in  Grabe.  Cassel, 

MISSIRINI  (Melchiore).  Pericolo  di  seppillire  gli  uomini  vivi  creduti 
morti.  Milano,  1837. 

YIGXE  ( ).     Memoire  sur  les  inhumations  precipitees,  des  moyens  de 

les   prevenir,  des   signes   de   la   mort.     Rouen,    1837  ;    Paris,    1839, 

BIOPHILOS.  Die  neue  Sicherungsweise  gegen  rettungloses  Wiederer- 
wachen  im  Grabe.  Netistadt,  1838. 

SCHAFFER  (Fried.).  Beschreibung  and  Abbildung  einer  Vorrichtung 
durch  welche  Scheintodte  sich  aus  dem  Sarge  im  Grabe  befreien 
konnen.  Landsberg,  1839. 

SCHMIDT  (H.).     Der  Scheintod.     1841. 

VlLLENEUVE  (P.  E. ).  Du  danger  des  inhumations  precipitees  et  des 
moyens  de  les  prevenir,  etc.  Paris,  1841. 

DESCHAMPS  (M.  H.).     Precis  de  la  mort  apparente.     Paris,   1841. 

Du  signe  de  la  mort  reelle,  etc.     Memoir  read  at  the  Acad. 

des  Sc.,   March  28,   1843,  in  Gaz.  Med.,  April  1st. 

Du  signe   certain   de    la   mort,  nouvelle    epreuve    pour   eviter, 

d'etre  enterre  vivant.     Paris,   1854. 

NASSE  (P'ried.).  Die  Unterscheidung  des  Scheintodes  von  wirklichem 
Tode,  zu  Beruhigung  iiber  die  Gefahr  lebendig  begrahen  zu  warden. 
Bonn,  1841.  French  transl.  by  Fallot.  Namur,  1842. 

HICKMANX  (J.  N.).  Die  Elektricitat  als  Priifungs-und-Belebungsmittel 
im  Scheintode.  Wien,  1841. 

DENDY    (W.    C. ).       The   philosophy   of  mystery,    etc.       London,    1841. 

[Contains    chapters    on    premature    interment,    resuscitation    from 
catalepsy  or  trance,  etc.] 

WELCH.MAN  (E. ).  Observations  on  apparent  death  from  suffocation  or 
drowning,  choke-damp,  stroke  of  lightning,  exposure  to  extreme 
cold,  with  directions  for  using  the  resuscitating  apparatus  invented 
by  author,  and  gen.  instruc.,  etc.  8vo.  New  York,  1842. 


LKNORMAND  (Leonce).     Des  inhumations  precipitees.     Macon,  1843. 

GAYET  ( ).      De  la  necessite  de  la  verification  des  deces.      Nantes, 


CHAI.ETTE  (J.),  fils.  Du  danger  des  inhumations  precipitees  et  de 
1'importance  de  faire  constater  les  deces  par  les  gens  de  Tart. 
Chalons- sur-Marne,  1843. 

BARJAVEL  (C.  F.  H.)-  Necessite  absolue  d'ouvrir  au  plus  tot  des  maisons 
d'attente ;  considerations  de  police  medicale,  precedees  d'un  som- 
maire  analytique,  et  suivies  d'indications  bibliographiques  relatives 
au  sujet  de  cet  ecrit.  (Tirage  a  cinquante  exemplaires  seulement). 
Carpentras,  1845. 

BICHAT.  Recherches  physiologiques  sur  la  vie  et  la  mort.  Nouvelle  ed. 
Paris,  1845.  388  PP- 

LE  BON.     La  mort  apparente  et  les  inhumations  prematurees. 

DEBAY  (Auguste).  Les  vivants  enterres  et  les  morts  resuscites.  Con- 
siderations physiologiques  sur  les  morts  apparentes  et  les  inhumations 
precipitees.  Paris,  1846. 

GAILLARD  (X.).  Preservatif  contre  le  danger  d'etre  enterre  vivant,  ou 
devoirs  sacres  des  vivants  envers  les  morts.  Paris,  1847. 

LOTHMAR  (C.  J,)-     Ueber  das  Lebendigbegraben.     Leipzig,   1847. 

Du  FAY  (Hortense  G.).  Des  vols  d'enfant,  et  des  inhumations  d'individus 
vivants,  suivi  d'un  apercu  pour  1'etablissement  des  salles  mortuaires. 
Paris,  1847. 

[In  1839  the  Paris  Academic  des  Sciences  threw  open  to  com- 
petition the  Prix  Manni  (1,500  francs,  founded  in  1837  by  Professor 
Manni,  of  Rome),  for  the  best  work  on  the  signs  of  death  and  the 
means  of  preventing  premature  burials.  The  prize  was  not  assigned 
on  that  occasion,  nor  in  1842  ;  but  in  the  competition  of  1846  it 
was  assigned  to  Bouchut,  on  the  report  to  the  Academy  by  Rayer, 
May  29,  1848.] 

BOUCHUT  (E. ).  Traite  des  signes  de  la,  mort  et  des  moyens  de  ne  pas  etre 
enterre  vivant.  Paris,  1849.  Second  ed.,  1847;  third  ed.,  1883. 

Memoire  sur  plusieurs  nouveaux  signes  de  la  mort,  fournis  par 

1'opthalmoscopie,  et  pouvant  empecher  les    enterrements  precipites. 
Paris,  1867. 


BRAID  (James).  Observations  on  trance,  or  human  hybernation. 
London,  1850. 

KAUFMANN  (M.)-  De  la  mort  apparente  et  des  enterrements  precipites. 
Paris,  1851. 

KERTHOMAS  (Hyac.   L.  De).     Inhumations  precipitees.     Lille,   1852. 

HARRISON  (James  Bower).  The  medical  aspects  of  death.  London, 

CRIMOTEL  (}.  B.  Valentin).  Des  inhumations  precipitees;  epreuve 
infaillible  pour  constater  la  mort  ;  moyens  de  rappeler  a  la  vie  dans 
les  cas  de  mort  apparente  causee  par  Tether,  le  chloroforme,  etc. 
Paris,  1852. 

De  1'epreuve  galvanique  ou   bioscopie   electrique,  moyens  de 

reconnaitre  la  vie  ou  la  mort  et  d'eviter  les  inhumations  precipitees. 

JOSAT  ( ).      De  la  mort  et  ses  caracteres.       JSecessite  d'une  revision 

de  la  legislation  des  deces  pour  prevenir  les  inhumations  et  les 
delaissements  anticipes.  Ouvrage  entrepris  et  execute  sous  les 
auspices  du  gouvernement  et  couronne  par  Tlnstitut.  Paris,  1854. 

LONDE  (C.).  Lettre  sur  la  mort  apparente,  les  consequences  reelles 
des  inhumations  precipitees,  le  temps  pendant  lequel  peut  persister 
1'aptitude  a  etre  rappele  a  la  vie.  Paris,  1854.  Plates. 

KEMPNER  (F.).  Denkschrift  iiber  die  Nothwendigkeit  einer  gesetzlichen 
Einfiihrung  von  Leichenhausern.  New  ed.  Br.eslau,  1856. 

PEYRIER  (J.  P.  P.).  Recherches  sur  1'incertitude  des  signes  de  la  mort : 
enumeration  des  maladies  qui  peuvent  produire  la  mort  apparente  ; 
abus  des  enterrements  precipites.  Paris,  1855. 

COLLONGUES  (L.).  Application  de  la  dynamoscopie  a  la  constatation 
des  deces.  Paris,  1858,  1862. 

HALMA  GRAND  ( ).     Des  inhumations  precipitees.     Paris,   1860. 

WELHY  (Horace).  Mysteries  of  life,  death,  and  futurity  (with  chapter 
on  premature  interment).  London,  1 86 1. 

REYHER  (O.  C.  A.).  Ueber  die  Verwerthung  der  bekannten  Leichen 
erscheinungen  zur  Constatirung  des  wahren  Todes.  Leipzig,  1862. 


CHEVANDIERE  (Antoine  Daniel).  De  la  verification  des  deces  et  de 
1'organisation  de  la  medecine  cantonale.  Paris,  1862. 

HASSELT  (A.  W.  M.  van).  Die  Lehre  vom  Tode  und  Scheintode. 
Braunschweig,  1862,  p.  276. 

DESMAIRE  (Paul).     Les  morts  vivants.     Paris,   1862. 

BAR.RANGEARD  (Antoine).  Extrait  de  divers  memoires  publics  ddpuir 
tres  longtemps  par  le  Docteur  Barrangeard,  sur  le  danger  des 
inhumations  precipitees  et  sur  1'indispensable  necessite  de  constater 
avec  soin  tous  les  deces  sans  exception.  Lyon,  1863. 

BONNEJOY  (E).  Des  moyens  pratiques  de  constater  la  mort  pas 
1'electricite  a  la  aide  de  la  faradisation.  Paris,  1866. 

RINK  (H.  W.).  Vom  Zustande  nach  dem  Tode.  Bibl.  Untersuchungen. 
Ludwigsberg,  1866. 

LEVASSEUR  (P.).  De  la  catalepsie  au  point  de  vue  du  diagnostic  de  la 
mort  apparente.  8vo.  Rouen,  1866. 

De  la  mort  apparente  et  des  moyens  de  la  reconnaitre.    Rouen, 

1867.     Re-issued,  with  a  second  essay,  in  1870. 

JACQUAND  (Frederic).  Appareil  respiratoire  avertisseur  pour  les  tombes, 
Assurance  contre  la  mort  apparente.  Paris,  1867. 

BIANCO  (Giuseppe).  Le  pericolose  consequent  della  morte  apparente 
prevenute  da  un  confaciente  riforma  del  servizio  mortuario.  Torino, 

GANNAL  (Felix).  Mort  apparente  et  mort  reelle.  Moyens  de  les  distinguer. 
First  ed.  Paris,  1868.  Third  ed.  (mention  honorable  a  1'Institut 
de  France),  1890. 

[In  1868  the  Academic  de  Medecine  of  Paris  threw  open  to 
competition  the  Prix  d'Ourches  of  20,000  francs  for  the  discovery 
of  a  simple  and  popular  means  of  detecting  the  signs  of  real  death 
certainly  and  beyond  doubt.  The  prize  was  not  awarded,  but  pre- 
miums were  given  to  several  competitors.] 

HOARAU  (H.).  La  mort,  sa  constatation,  ou  precede  a  1'aide  du  quel 
on  puet  la  reconnaitre  et  eviter  des  enterrements  de  vifs.  Paris,  1874. 

YEYNE  ( ).     Mort  apparente  et  mort  reelle,  arteriotomie  donnant  le 

moyen  de  les  reconnaitre.     Paris,  1874. 


MONTEVERDI  (A.)-  Note  sur  un  moyen  simple,  facile,  prompt  et  certain 
de  distinguer  la  mort  vrai  de  la  mort  apparente  de  1'homme.. 
Cremone,  1874. 

M ARTEL  ( ).      La  mort  apparente  chez  les  nouveaux-nes.      Paris,  1874. 

BoiLLET  (Ch.)-      Mort  apparente  et  victimes  ignorees.      Paris,    1875. 

DE  COMEAU  ( ).      Les  signes  certains  de  la  mort  mis  a  la  portee  de 

tout  le  monde.      Limoges,    1876. 

BELYAL  (Th.).      Les  maisons  mortuaires.     Paris,   1877. 

FRITZ-ANDRE  ( ).      Du  danger  des  inhumations  precipitees.      Brux- 

elles,   1879. 

[The  Prix  Dusgate  was  founded  by  a  decree  of  November  27, 
1874,  authorising  the  Academic  des  Sciences  of  Paris  to  accept  the 
legacy  of  M.  Dusgate  of  a  quinquennial  prize  of  2,500  francs  for 
the  best  work  on  the  diagnostic  signs  of  death  and  on  the  means 
of  preventing  premature  burial.  The  essays  of  the  first  competition 
were  received  on  [une  I,  1880,  and  on  March  14,  1881,  the  prize 
was  divided  among  the  three  following  competitors.  In  1885  the 
prize  was  not  awarded.] 

(  )NIMUS  (E.  N.  J.).  Modification  de  1'excitabilite  des  nerfs  et  des 
muscles  apres  la  mort.  (Published.) 

1'EVRAND  (H.).  De  la  determination  de  la  mort  reelle  par  le  caustique 
de  Yienne. 

LK  BON  (G. ).  Recherches  experimental  sur  les  signes  diagnostiques 
de  la  mort  et  sur  les  moyens  de  prevenir  les  inhumations  precipitees. 
(A  temperature  of  25'  C.  on  a  thermometer  kept  in  the  mouth  for 
a  quarter  of  an  hour.)  Also,  Article  on  Premature  Interment  in 
Monit.  scient.,  viii.  Paris. 

ALLEN  (F.  1).).  Remarks  on  the  dangers  and  duties  of  sepulture,  or 
security  for  the  living  with  respect  and  repose  of  the  dead.  Boston, 
1873-  * 

BURDETT  (IT.  C.).  The  necessity  and  importance  of  mortuaries  for 
towns  and  villages,  with  suggestions  for  their  establishment  and 
management.  London,  1880. 

FRASER  (W. ).  Distinctions  between  real  and  apparent  death.  Popular 
Science  Monthly,  New  York,  1 880-81.  Vol.  xviii.,  pp.  401-408. 


HORNEMANN  (E.).  Vom  Zustande  des  Menschen  Rurz  vor  dem  Tode. 
A.  d.  Dan.  5  Aufl.  Gotha,  1882. 

FLETCHER  (Moore  Russell).  One  thousand  persons  buried  alive  by 
their  best  friends.  A  treatise  on  suspended  animation,  with  direc- 
tions for  restoration.  Boston,  1890. 

"  A  Hygienic  Physician."  Earth  to  earth  burial  and  cremation  by  fire 
[includes  cases  of  premature  burial].  London,  1890. 

HERNANDEZ  (Maxime  F.  E.  M.).  Contribution  a  1'etude  de  la  mort 
apparente.  Bordeaux,  1893. 

LIGNIERES  (Dr.  D.  De).     Ne  pas  etre  enterre  vivant.     Paris,  1893. 

Traitement  physiologique  de  la  mort  apparente.  Series  of  twenty-five 
papers  in  "La  Tribune  Medicale."  Paris,  1894.  Vol.  xxvi.,  2  ser. 

GILES  (Alfred  E.).  Funerals,  suspended  animation,  premature  burials. 
Boston,  1895. 

A  Citizen's   Remonstrance  to  the   Legislature,  by  Alfred   E. 

Giles.     Boston,  U.S.,  1895. 

GAUBERT  (B.),  Avocat.  Les  chambres  mortuaires  d'attente,  devant 
1'histoire,  la  legislation,  la  science,  1'hygiene  et  le  culte  des  morts. 
(Le  peril  des  inhumations  precipitees  en  France.)  With  sixty 
figures,  maps,  or  plans.  Paris,  1895. 

HARTMANN   (Franz).      Buried  alive :     An   examination  into  the  occult 

causes  of  apparent  death,   trance,   and   catalepsy.  Boston,    U.S., 

1895.      London,  1896.      Also,  Lebendig  begraben.  Leipzig,  1896. 

WILDER  (Alexander).     The  perils  of  premature  burial.     London,  1895. 

EVERSBUSCH.  Zur  Scheintoderkennung  und  Leichenschau.  Leipzig, 

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SANTA  (Dr.  de  Pietra).  Lethargic  et  inhumations  precipitees.  In  the 
Journal  d'Hygiene,  No.  1,072,  April  8,  1897.  Paris. 

LE  KARNICI-FRANCE.  Graf.  v.  Karnicki.  Betrachtungen  iib  Lethargic 
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FELICE  DELL'  ACQUA  (Dr.).  La  morte  vera  e  la  morte  apparente,  con 
appendice  la  legislazione  mortuaria.  I36pp.  1897.  Published  by 
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KARNICE-KARNICKI  (Michel  de).      Vie  ou  mort.      74pp.      Paris,   1900. 

BROUARDEL.  Death  and  sudden  death.  Translated  by  F.  L.  Benham, 
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BECKER  (Dr.  Carl).  Heft  I.  Das  Leichen-und-Begrabniswesen. 
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GREEN  (C.  Theodore),  M.R.C.S.,  L.R.C.P.  Sudden  death  and  prema- 
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GIACCHI  (Dolt.  Prof.  Oscar).  La  morte  apparente.  20  pp.  Torino, 

CONNER  (Edoardo).     Come  lo  stato  possa  impedire  la  sepoltura  dei  vivi. 
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LABORDE  (Dr.  T--V. ).  Le  signe  automatique  de  la  mort  reelle. 
114  pp.  Paris,  1900. 

FAGGE  and  PYE  SMITH.  Text  book  of  medicine.  Fourth  ed.,  vol.  i., 
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KNOPSTUCK-ROWEL.  Absolut  sichere  Verhiitung  des  Lebendigbegra- 
benwerdens  durch  Behandlung  des  Toten  mit  Kalte  Finsternis  und 
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ABADIE  (C.).  Note  sur  1'examen  ophthalmoscopique  du  fond  de  1'oeil 
comme  signe  de  la  mort  reelle.  Gaz.  d'Hop.,  vol.  xlvii.,  p.  290. 
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BOUCHUT  (E.).  Mort  apparente  durant  six  heures,  avec  absence  des 
battements  du  coeur  a  1'auscultation.  Gaz.  d'Hop.,  vol.  xxvii.,  p. 
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BOURGEOIS  (R.).  Du  danger  d'etre  enterre  vivant  et  des  moyens  de 
constater  la  mort.  Bull.  Acad.  de  Med.,  vol.  ii.,  pp.  619-626. 
Paris,  1837-38,  and  Rev.  Med.  Fran9-  et  etrang.,  vol.  ii.,  pp.  360- 
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BROWN-SEQUARD  ( ).     "  Extraordinary  prolongation  of  the  principal 

acts  of  life  after  the  cessation  of  respiration."  Arch,  de  Physiol. 
Norm,  et  Path.,  vol.  vi.,  2  ser.,  pp.  83-88.  Paris,  1879. 

"Researches    on   the    possibility   of  recalling   temporarily   to 

life   persons  dying   of  sickness."      J.   de   la  Physiol.   de   PHomme, 
vol.  i.,  pp.  666-672.     Paris,   1858. 

CAZIN    ( ).       Be   la   necessite   de   faire  constater  tous  les  genres   de 

mort.  Precis  d'Trav.  Soc.  Med.  de  Boulogne-sur-Mer,  vol.  i.,  pp. 
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CHAUSSIER   ( ).      Rapport    sur    les    enterremens    precipitees.       Bull. 

Fac.  de  Med.  de  Paris,  vol.  v.,  pp.  467-476.     1816-17. 

DESCHAMPS  (M.-H.).  Memoire  sur  la  verification  des  deces  et  sur  le 
danger  des  declarations  precipitiees.  Union  Med.,  vol.  xxi.,  N.S., 
pp.  56,  1 06.  Paris,  1864. 

DEVERGIE  ( ).     Inhumations  precipitiees.     Ann.  d'Hyg  ,  2  ser.,  vol. 

xxvii.,  pp.  293-327.  Paris,  1867.  De  la  creation  de  maisons 
mortuaires  et  de  la  valeur  des  signes  de  la  mort.  Ann.  d'Hyg., 
vol.  xxxiv.,  2  ser.,  pp.  310-327.  Paris,  1870. 

Des  signes  de  la  mort ;  etude  de  leur  cause,  appreciation  de 

leur  valeur.      Ann.  d'Hyg.,  vol.  xli.,  2  ser.,  pp.  380-405.       Paris, 


FODERE  ( ).      Signes  de  la  mort.      Diet,  de  Sc.   Med.,  vol.  li.,  pp. 

294-306.     Paris,   1821. 

FOUANES  ( ).      Sur  la  rigidite  cadaverique  comme  signe  certain  de 

la  mort.     Gaz.   Med.  de  Paris,  vol  i.,  3  ser.,  p.   91.     1846. 

FOUQUET  ( ).      Memoire  sur  la  roideur  cadaverique  considered  comme 

signe  certain  de  la  mort.  Gaz.  Med.  de  Paris,  vol.  ii.,  3  ser., 
pp.  260-255.  1847. 

FOURNIE  ( ).  Les  signes  de  la  mort  et  le  prix  d'Ourches.  (Also  trans- 
lated into  Italian.)  Gaz.  d'Hop.,  vol.  xlvii. ,  pp.  273-275.  Paris, 

GlRBAL   ( ).       Mort    apparente  :    mesures  prematures  d'inhumation  : 

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ZILIOTTO  (P.).  Gior.  Venete  di  Sc.  Med.,  vol.  i.,  3  ser.,  pp.  323-336. 
Venezia,  1864. 

ZURADELLI  (G.).  Ann.  Univ.  di  Med.,  vol.  vii.,  pp.  3-241.  Milano, 

French   theses   (at   Paris,    unless  otherwise    stated)   on   apparent   death, 
the  signs  of  death,  danger  of  premature  burial,  etc.  : — 

JOUY  (Montpellier),   1803.  D'ALENCASTRE,   1832. 

THOMASSIN  (Strassbourg),  1805.  CHAMPNEUF,  1832. 

LAURENT,  1805.  BONIFACE,  1833. 

PIERRET,  1807.  LINARES,  1834. 

VERNEY,  1811.  MENESTREL,  1838. 

FOUCHER,    l8l7.  DE   SlLVEIRA    PlNTO,    1837. 

CRESLON,  1819.  CARRE,'  1845. 


FERRY,  1819,  DOSAIS,  1858. 

LEPAULMTER,  1819.  GRESLON,  1858. 

LEVY  (Strassbourg),   1820.  PARROT,   1860. 

AMAND  D'AMBRAINE,  1821.  LEGLUDIC,  1863. 

POUIER,  1823.  SCHNEIDER  (Strassbourg),   1863. 

WEST,  1827.  ACOSTA,  1864. 

PIERRET,  1827.  EDMOND,  1871. 

GLEIZAL,  1829. 

Graduation  theses  other  than  French,  on  the  same  theme  : — 

VAN  GEEST  (Lugd.  Bat.),   1811.  BETTMAN  (Munich),   1839. 

DAVIES  (Edin.),  1813.  SCHMIDT  (Niirnberg),   1841. 

GOURY  (Leodii),  1828.  KLUGE  (Leipzig),   1842. 

TSCHERNER  (Breslau),  1829.  WENDLER  (Leipzig),   1845. 

SOMMER  (Havniae),   1833.  KRIBBEX  (Bonn),   1873. 

NYMAN  (Dorpat),   1835.  SORGENFREY  (Dorpat),  1876. 

The  following  publications  have  been  issued  by  the  London  Asso- 
ciation for  the  Prevention  of  Premature  Burial,  and  copies  can  be 
obtained  from  the  Secretary,  17  Lamb's  Conduit  Street,  London,  W.C. 

Premature  Burial  and    How  it  May  be  Prevented,   by  WILLIAM  TEBB 
and  Col.  E.  P.  VOLLUM.     4OOpp. 

Premature  Burial :   a   Reply  to  Dr.    David  Walsh,   by  WILLIAM  TEBB. 

The  Perils  of  Premature  Burial,  by  Prof.  ALEX.  WILDER,  M.D.     With 
Introduction  by  WILLIAM  TEBB.     28pp. 

Premature  Burial,  by  Dr.  FRANZ  HARTMANN.     I28pp. 

How  the  State  May  Prevent  Premature  Burial,   by  EDWARD  CONNOR. 
Booklet,   i6pp. 

In    Dread    of   Premature    Burial.       Reprinted    from    Cassell's    Saturday 
Journal.      i6pp. 

A  Plan  for   Forming  Associations   for   the    Prevention  of  the  Burial  of 
Living  Persons.     Fourth  Edition.     Booklet,   I2pp. 


Burying  Alive.  Reprint,  by  permission,  from  The  Spectator,  September 
14,  1896.  4pp.  leaflet. 

Premature  Burial  and  its  Prevention.  A  Description  of  the  "Karnice" 
Process.  Leaflet,  4pp. 

Burials  Amendment  Act.  Draft  of  a  Bill  containing  provisions  for  the 
verification  and  certification  of  death  previous  to  burial,  drawn  up 
by  a  Barrister-at-Law. 

How  I  was  Buried  Alive.  The  experience  of  Baron  Corvo  described 
by  himself,  illustrated  with  drawings  done  under  his  own 

What  is  Death?     Reprinted  from  The  Spectator.      Booklet,  2Opp. 

The  Signs  and  Proofs  of  Death,  by  SIR  BENJAMIN  WARD  RICHARDSON, 
M.D.,  F.R.S.,  etc. 

Trance :  Its  Various  Aspects  and  Possible  Results.  J.  BRINDLEY 

Considerations  on  Lethargy  or  Apparent  Death,  followed  by  a  Summary 
Description  of  the  Safety  Apparatus  "Karnice." 

Circular  of  the  London  Association  for  the  Prevention  of  Premature 
Burial.  4pp. 

Annual  Reports  of  the  London  Association  for  the  Prevention  of 
Premature  Burial. 


ALDIS,  Dr.  C.  J.  B.,  letter  on  tying 
up  the  chin  after  death,  389. 

All  the  Year  Round,  paper  cited 
from,  on  apparent  death,  and 
means  of  recovery,  314-318. 

Andersen,  Hans  Christian,  his  dread 
of  being  buried  alive,  188. 

Angell,  Mr.  George  T. ,  306. 

Animation,  suspended,  in  a  case  of 
small-pox,  121.  (See  "Trance.") 

Apathy,  public,  concerning  live 
burial,  67. 

Apoplexy,  Lenormand  on,  as  cause 
of  apparent  death,  214. 

Asclepiades  recovers  a  corpse  from 
the  bier,  371. 

Auscultation,  fallacies  of,  in  diag- 
nosis of  death,  307,  308 

Austria,  laws  of,  for  inspection  of 
dead,  399. 

Austrian  incident  of  probable  burial 
alive,  146. 

Awaking  in  coffin,  inference  as  to, 
at  Les  Innocens,  Paris,  81 ;  at 
Philadelphia,  82;  in  Calcutta,  82; 
at  Basingstoke,  83 ;  at  Tonneins, 
84;  at  Montflorin,  85;  at  Bohaste, 
85 ;  at  Grenoble,  86 ;  at  Cesa, 
Naples,  86;  at  Tioobayn,  St. 
Petersburg,  86;  at  Le  Pin,  Gre- 
noble, 87  ;  at  Deptford,  87  ;  at 
Greenwood  Cemetery,  88 ;  at 
Benovent,  88;  at  Novocherkask, 
89;  at  Rudenberg,  Austria,  89; 
at  Salon  (Bouches  du  Rhone),  89; 
at  Naples,  90;  at  Derbisch,  Bo- 
hemia, 90 ;  at  Majola,  Mantua, 
91;  soldier's  wife,  91;  in  Ireland, 
92;  at  New  York  (two  cases),  92, 
93;  in  India,  94,  95;  Koppen's 
cases  of,  252-255,  385  ;  case  of  a 
Franciscan  monk,  at  Bordeaux, 
29  , 

252 ;  old  cases  at  Cologne,  373 ; 
at  Dijon,  373  ;  at  Vesoul,  374  ; 
of  a  cardinal  at  Rome,  375  >  °f 
case  related  'by  Elliotson,  379; 
of  Robert  Scott,  380;  of  Rev. 
John  Gardner,  381;  of  case  re- 
lated by  Dr.  Herz,  382;  of  Mrs. 
Goodman,  383 ;  cases  related  by 
British  Medical  Journal,  387,  388. 

BARNETT,  Dr.  J.  M.,  publishes 
letter  on  the  blister  test,  306. 

Battlefields,  burial  alive  in,  95-97. 

Bavaria,  official  regulations  of,  for 
preventing  premature  burial,  244; 
police,  instructions  to,  for  corpse 
inspection,  245,  246. 

Baxter,  Mr.  W.,  on  extraordinary 
case  of  death-certification,  282. 

Berkeley,  Bishop,  his  dread  of  being 
buried  alive,  1 88. 

Beugless,  Mr.  J.  D.,  on  the  dread 
of  premature  interment,  191. 

Bibliography,  seventeenth  century, 
409;  eighteenth  century,  410; 
relating  to  humane  societies,  414; 
nineteenth  century,  416  ;  theses, 
427 ;  French  articles,  427 ;  Ger- 
man articles,  430  y  English  and 
American  articles/433;  Spanish 
articles,  436;  Italian  articles,  437  ; 
publications  of  London  Associa- 
tion for  Prevention  of  Premature 
Burial,  438,  439. 

Billimoria,  Mr.  N.  F. ,  writes  to  the 
author  on  premature  burning  in 
India,  164;  relates  cases  of  Parsees 
recovered  from  apparent  death, 
170;  on  advantages  of  the  Parsee 
customs  in  assuring  revival,  171. 

Bishop,  Mrs.  Eleanor  F.,  her  escape 
from  premature  embalming,  274. 



Blau,  M.,  certifies  an  escape  from 
live  burial  at  Toulouse,  177. 

Blavatsky,  Madam,  the  late,  had  an 
escape  from  live  burial,  46. 

Blunden,  Madam,  her  burial  alive 
at  Basingstoke,  83. 

Bombay,  customs  in  disposal  of  dead, 

Bonawitz,  Mr.  J.  H.,  relates  two 
experiences  of  escape,  327-329. 

Bordeaux,  corpses  shown  in  cathedral 
of,  which  had  moved  in  the  coffin, 

Bouchut,  Dr.  E. ,  his  book  gives 
sensational  cases,  14;  relates  case 
rescued  alive  from  coffin,  152;  on 
tests  of  death,  223  ;  prize  for  dis- 
covery of  death  test,  318  ;  case  of 
revival  in  mortuary  at  Cassel,  361. 

Bourneville,  Dr.,  on  drunkenness  as 
a  death  counterfeit,  157. 

Boussakis,  M.  K.,  eye-witness  of 
resuscitation  of  supposed  corpse, 

Brahmin  rites  and  superstitions, 

Braid,  Mr.  James,  narrates  case  of 
catalepsy,  66  ;  on  animal  hiberna- 
tion, 69  ;  on  trance  in  fakirs,  75  ; 
on  Sir  Claude  Wade's  testimony, 
77  ;  cases  of  trance  with  sense  of 
hearing  good,  379. 

Brewer,  Dr. ,  relates  cases  of  narrow 
escape,  113. 

Brighouse,  Mr.  S.,  coroner,  case  of 
child  "  died"  four  times,  358. 

British  Medical  Journal  on  signs 
of  death,  237-240 :  case  of  diffi- 
culty in  diagnosing  real  death, 
239  ;  hardly  any  one  sign  but 
putrefaction  infallible,  239  ;  on 
death  -  certification,  282,  283  ; 
records  two  cases  of  revivals  in 
the  coffin,  387,  388. 
Broadwey,  Dorset,  catalepsy  in  a 

bride  at,  66. 

Brouardel,  Dr.  P.,  on  hibernating 
animals,  71,  72;  experiment  on 
live  dog  in  coffin,  251  ;  failure  of 
heart  test,  223  ;  on  unreliability 
of  death  signs,  303. 

Brown-Sequard,  Dr.,  on  fallacy  of 
clenched  jaws  as  sign  of  death, 

Bruhier,  Dr.,  relates  case  of  pre- 
mature dissection,  276. 

Brussels,  regulations  for  verification 
of  death,  294,  295  ;  burial  regula- 
tions and  mortuaries  of,  403. 

Buffon,  Comte  de,  on  the  treatment 
of  the  dead,  256. 

Bukovina,  case  of  resuscitation  in, 

Burial  Act  of  1900,  289-291. 

Burial,  ancient  practices  of,  376-379. 

Burial,  hasty,  case  of,  at  Roscrea, 

Burial,  live,  experiment  on,  at  West- 
minster Aquarium,  77. 

Burial,  premature,  a  class  of  pro- 
bable cases  of,  141-148  ;  G.  A. 
Walker  on  risks  of,  256,  257  ; 
Fletcher  on  risks  of,  258  ;  number 
of  cases  of,  261-270  ;  frequency 
of  estimated,  261-270;  Hufeland 
on  risks  of,  262. 

Burials,  ancient  practices,  175* 

Buried  alive.  (See  also  under 
"Awaking.")  Rescue  delayed 
at  Salzburg,  Austria,  137  ;  at 
Saumur,  in  France,  fatal  delay, 

138  ;    fatal   delay    at    Radstock, 

139  ;  at    Doussard,    139  ;   at  Li- 
moges, saved  by  promptness,  140. 

Burning  Ghat,  the,  of  Calcutta, 
visited  by  the  author,  159. 

Burton,  Lady,  provisions  of  her  will 
against  risk  of  live  burial,  187. 

CALCUTTA,  the  Burning  Ghat, 
visited  by  the  author,  1 59  ;  burial 
customs  at,  402. 

Cape  Town,  want  of  mortuary  regu- 
lations at,  402. 

Carnot,  M.,  petitions  French  Senate 
on  premature  burial,  112  ;  his 
statistics  of  live  burial,  264. 

Carpmael,  Mr.  E.  E.,  hypodermic 
strychnine  as  a  reviver,  311. 

Casket,  The,  on  testimony  of  opened 
graves,  395  ;  on  hasty  embalm- 
ing, 395- 



4<  Cassell's  Family  Physician,"  ac- 
count of  catalepsy  from,  60. 

Castaldi,  Signer,  buried  in  state  of 
catalepsy,  325. 

Catalepsy,  definition  and  symptoms 
of,  57  ;  reminiscences  by  editor, 
57,  58  ;  Hartmann  differentiates 
trance  and  catalepsy,  59  ;  Dr. 
Gowers  on,  59;  "  Cassell's  Family 
Physician "  on,  60  ;  Dr.  Forbes 
Winslow  on,  60  ;  Gooch  on,  62  ; 
cases  by  Jebb,  63 ;  Dr.  King, 
63  ;  Chambers,  64  ;  Paris  Corre- 
spondent of  Lancet,  65  ;  Braid, 
66  ;  near  Wey mouth,  66  ;  case 
of  revival  on  eve  of  burial,  151, 
152;  Dr.  Milner  on,  225  ;  tragic 
occurrence  during  funeral  ar- 
rangements, 192  ;  Signor  Cas- 
taldi buried  alive  in,  325. 

Cavendish,  Miss  Ada,  provision  in 
her  will  against  risk  of  live 
burial,  1 88. 

Certificates  of  death,  laxity  of,  8, 
283,  285  ;  prematurely  given, 
292  ;  case  by  Mr.  Baxter,  282  ; 
British  Medical  Journal  on, 
282-283  '•>  directions  for  filling  up, 
283 ;  laxity  of,  at  Swansea, 
284  ;  statistics  of  uncertified 
deaths,  288  ;  in  France,  294  ;  in 
Brussels,  294 ;  in  Wurtemburg, 
296  ;  in  Dover,  New  Hampshire, 
299 ;  Dr.  Brindley  James  on, 
300;  Daily  Chronicle  on,  301. 

Ceylon,  risks  of  premature  disposal 
of  dead  in,  163. 

Chambers,  Dr.  T.  King,  relates 
and  cites  cases  of  catalepsy,  64;  on 
number  of  premature  burials,  261. 

Chantourelle,  Dr.,  raises  debate 
on  premature  burial  at  Paris 
Academy  of  Medicine,  81. 

Chew,  Dr.  Roger  G.  S.,  relates  cases 
of  live  burial,  82,  94;  his  own  case 
of  escape  from  same,  124  ;  other 
cases  of  escape  from  same,  118- 
120  ;  case  of  burial  alive,  135  ; 
case  of  chloroformed  girl  buried 
as  dead,  155  ;  on  cholera  col- 
lapse mistaken  for  death,  156 ; 

in  cerebral  concussion,  157  ;  in 
various  predisposing  diseases,  158; 
on  safety  of  soldiers  in  India  from 
live  burial,  166  ;  on  putrefactive 
test,  225  ;  on  rigor  mortis,  228  ; 
fallacy  of  post  -  mortem  stains, 
230  ;  on  frequency  of  live  burial, 
268  ;  on  auscultation  sounds  after 
death,  308  ;  cases  of  revival  in 
mortuaries  in  India,  361-363. 

Chloroform,  effects  of,  simulating 
death,  155. 

Cholera,  special  risk  of  live  burial 
in  cases  of,  118,  119,  120,  182; 
case  of  burial  alive  in,  135. 

Chri,  Mr.  Vira  Raghava,  describes 
disposal  of  dead  at  Madras,  161. 

Chunder  Sen,  Mr.,  relates  case  of 
trance  in  a  fakir,  74- 

Cobbe,  Miss  Frances  Power,  per- 
sonal recollections,  126  ;  direc- 
tions in  will,  272. 

Coffins,  sounds  from  the,  134,  135. 

Colerus,  on  apparent  death,  376. 

Collins,  Sir  W.  J.,  advises  the 
providing  of  mortuaries,  354« 

Cologne,  old  instances  of  revival  at, 

372,  373- 

Colombo,  a  Catholic  priest  of,  sub- 
ject to  death-trances,  160. 

Coriclamation,  practice  of,  by  the 
Caribs,  377  ;  in  antiquity,  377  ; 
in  Russia,  377  5  in  the  case  of  the 
Widow  of  Nain's  son,  378. 

Conclusions,  summary  of,  366-370. 

Constantinople,  risks  of  live  burial 
at,  178. 

Continental  evidence  on  hasty 
burials,  177. 

Cooper,  Mr.  M. ,  surgeon,  on  appa- 
rent deaths,  13  ;  relates  case  of 
Madame  Blunden,  83 ;  case  at 
Toulouse  of  escape  from  live 
burial,  177  ;  condemns  hasty 
burial,  207,  208  ;  on  risks  of  dis- 
section, 275. 

Creighton,  Dr.  C.,  his  "  History  of 
Epidemics"  cited,  332. 

Cremation,  at  Calcutta,  1595  hasty 
disposal  of  apparently  dead,  160  ; 
among  Brahmins  at  Madras,  161 ; 



at  Benares,  162  ;  as  a  preventa- 
tive  of  premature  burial,  324-334  ; 
society,  precautions  of,  329  ;  ap- 
proved on  general  grounds,  331  ; 
prejudice  against,  331  ;  Rev.  J. 
P.  Hopps  on,  331  ;  Bishop  of 
Manchester  on,  332  ;  resolution 
of  Glasgow  Health  Congress,  333  ; 
in  Japan,  334  ;  in  India,  334. 

Crom,  Dr.  K.  H.,  case  of  resusci- 
tation at  sea,  183. 

Crowe,  Mrs.,  cases  related  by,  381. 

Curran,  Dr.  W.,  brigade-surgeon, 
relates  case  of  premature  dis- 
section, 280. 

Curry,  Dr.  James,  women  pre- 
disposed to  death-counterfeits, 
150;  on  slow  ebbing  of  life,  213; 
cases  cited  from,  273. 

Cvetskens,  Maria,asleep  3Oodays,  54. 

"Cyclopaedia  of  Practical  Medicine," 
on  premature  dissections,  276  ; 
relates  remarkable  case  of  revival 
after  apparent  death,  385. 

Daily  Chronicle  on  lax  death- 
certification,  301. 

Dalmatia,  ordinances  of,  for  inspec- 
tion of  dead,  401. 

Danger  in  wasting  diseases,  117. 

Danger  of  hasty  burials,  175. 

Daskalaki,  Marie,  asleep  five 
months,  53. 

Davies,  Major-General  T.,  his  ac- 
count of  hibernating  jerboa,  68. 

Dead,  the  treatment  of,  256  ;  Buftbn 
on  same,  256  ;  G.  A.  Walker  on, 
256,  257  ;  Fletcher  on,  in  United 
States,  258  ;  Whiter  on,  259  ;  as 
a  department  of  medical  practice, 
259,  260. 

Death-certification,  282-302  ;  extra- 
ordinary case  by  Mr.  Baxter,  282  ; 
British  Medical  fournal  on,  282, 

283  ;     laxity    of,     at     Swansea, 

284  ;  Select  Committee  on,  pur- 
port   of  its   evidence,   284,  285  ; 
evidence    before,     284 ;     recom- 
mendations of,   285  ;    support  of 
same    at    medical   meeting.    286 ; 
statistics    of    uncertified    deaths, 

288  ;  resolution  of  London  Asso- 
ciation, 291  ;  Col.  Volluin  on, 
291,  292  ;  curious  error  in,  292  ; 
unreliability  of,  368.  (See  under 
"  Certificates.") 

Death,  counterfeits  of,  56,  366 ; 
their  duration,  248-255  ;  Josat's 
table  of  same,  249 ;  Koppen's 
illustrations  of  same,  252. 

Death,  signs  of,  219-247  ;  popular, 
219  ;  scientific,  220-247  ;  Dr. 
Brouardel  on  their  unreliability, 
303  ;  illusory  nature  of,  368.  (See 
also  under  "  Tests  of  Death.") 

"  Death  "  to  life  in  the  grave,  89-91. 

Death,  sudden,  the  only  real  cases 
of,  194  ;  Farr  on  definition  of, 
195  ;  Granville  on  same,  195  ; 
Tidy  on  causes  of,  196  ;  Wilder 
on  same,  198;  recent  instances  of 
from  newspapers,  199-207;  from 
heart  disease,  216  ;  Manchester 
Criterion  on  revivals  from,  217  ; 
Dr.  Wilder  on  risks  of  premature 
burial  in,  217  ;  laws  against  early 
burial  after,  218. 

Death,  uncertainty  of,  73  ;  G.  A. 
Walker  on,  256,  257  ;  London 
Review  on,  371. 

Death,  verification  of,  292-300. 

Denmark,  burial  and  mortuary  regu- 
lations of,  403. 

Diaphanous  test,  the  failure  of,  225; 
Haward  on,  225  ;  Orfila  on,  228  ; 
Richardson  on,  227. 

Diembroeck,  case  of  trance,  52. 

Dijon,  case  of  awaking  in  the  tomb 
at,  373-  . 

Disintegration,  the  process  of,  271. 

Disraeli,  Benjamin,  endures  a 
week's  trance,  46. 

Dissection,  premature,  probable  case 
of,  related  by  Ogston,  275  ;  Bru- 
hier's  cases  of,  280 ;  Louis'  case 
of,  277  ;  "  Cyclopaedia  of  Practi- 
cal Medicine  "  on  stories  of,  276  ; 
Le  Guern's  case  of,  279  ;  Hart- 
mann's  case  of,  279 ;  Curran's 
case  of,  280  ;  case  at  Lille,  365  ; 
by  Vesalius,  278  ;  of  a  Spanish 
lady,  279. 



Dogs,  their  instinct  for  the  pre- 
sence of  life  in  Parsee  ceremonies, 
173;  in  an  Austrian  case,  173; 
in  a  Moravian  case,  173  ;  experi- 
ments on  deprivation  of  air,  251. 

Donnellan,  Dr.,  on  hypodermic  in- 
jection after  apparent  death  from 
electric  shock,  312. 

Donnet,  Cardinal  Archbishop,  re- 
lates to  French  Senate  cases  of 
narrow  escape  from  live  burial, 
109-113,  including  his  own  case, 

Doubtful  cases  of  premature  burial, 

Douce,  Francis,  the  antiquary,  his 
fear  of  being  buried  alive,  187. 

Dover,  New  Hampshire,  ordinances 
of,  for  verification  of  death,  299. 

Drowned,  recovery  of  the,  392 ; 
cases  of,  by  Struve,  392  ;  Londe's 
case  of,  393 ;  Green's  case  of, 
394 ;  cases  of  (Royal  Humane 
Society),  395. 

Dryden,  Lady,  her  testamentary 
provisions,  379. 

Duncan,  Dr.  Ebenezer,  statistics  of 
Glasgow  burials,  333. 

Duncan,  Dr.  J.  M.,  case  of  revival 
in  Kansas  Mortuary,  364. 

Duration  of  death-counterfeits,  248- 
255  ;  statistics  of,  249 ;  experi- 
ments on,  251  ;  Koppen's  illus- 
trations of,  252-254. 

Duration  of  life  in  a  coffin,  250. 

ELECTRICITY  as  a  restorative  agent, 
309;  Dr.  Donellan  on,  312. 

Elliotson,  Dr.,  case  related  by,  379. 

Embalming,  makes  death  certain, 
271;  cases  of  premature,  273-275  ; 
cases  of  escape  from  same,  274  ; 
authority  of  Home  Secretary  ad- 
vised for,  232 ;  hasty,  in  the 
United  States,  395. 

Empedocles,  his  recovery  of  woman 
supposed  dead,  376. 

Escape  from  dissection  at  Lille,  365. 

Escape  from  live  burial,  98- 1 32 ;  case 
of  Dr.  Hadwen's,  98 ;  case  of 
lady  possessed  of  her  own  death- 

certificate,  IOO ;  case  of  North 
Staffordshire  (1903),  100 ;  case 
certified  dead  by  local  doctor, 
loo ;  case  in  Hungary  (1902), 
1 01  ;  case  certified  dead  by  two 
doctors,  101  ;  case  at  St.  Louis 
(1893),  101  ;  case  certified  by 
coroner,  101  ;  case  at  Sprakers, 
Rondout,  N.Y.,  101  ;  case  of 
Mrs.  Wright,  of  Ilford  (1897), 
103  ;  case  of  resuscitation  thirteen 
days  after  death,  103  ;  case  of  Sir 
W.  Lindsay,  1 04;  case  at  Coventry 
(1858),  105  ;  case  at  St.  Agnan 
de  Cenuieres,  106  ;  case  of  pro- 
fessor's wife  at  Tubingen,  107  ; 
case  related  by  Dr.  F.  A.  Floyer, 
108  ;  case  related  by  Cardinal 
Donnet,  109-113;  Dr.  Brewer  on, 
113;  Dr.  Richardson,  case  ot 
catalepsy,  114;  two  cases  of, 
related  by  Dr.  M.  S.  Tanner, 
114  ;  case  of  Dr.  O'Neill,  of  Lin- 
coln, 115  ;  Dr.  Fletcher  describes 
two  cases,  116;  in  case  related 
by  Dr.  Colin  Valentine,  117; 
in  case  related  by  Dr.  Stephenson, 
117  ;  Dr.  R.  G.  S.  Chew's  cases, 
118-120;  in  small-pox  at  Glouces- 
ter, 121  ;  The  Lancet,  in  cases  of 
small-pox,  121  ;  in  consumption 
and  epilepsy,  122,  123  ;  Dr.  R.  G. 
S.  Chew's  personal  experience  of, 
124,  125  ;  Miss  Frances  Power 
Cobbe's  recollections,  126  ;  in  the 
case  of  the  Metropolitan  of  Lesbos, 
127 ;  case  of  the  daughter  of 
British  Consul  coffined  alive,  128  ; 
incident  at  Vagueray,  near  Lyons, 
128  ;  case  of  woman  at  Burham, 
near  Rochester,  129;  case  at  St. 
Leonards,  129;  an  awful  experi- 
ence at  Hey  wood,  130 ;  at  Mil- 
itsch,  Silesia,  130 ;  after  being 
declared  dead  by  several  doctors, 
131  ;  restored  on  the  way  to  the 
funeral  (1901),  132;  after  being 
laid  out  for  dead  at  Tulle,  132  ; 
Mr.  T.  Wright  narrates  a  case, 
132 ;  formalities,  fatal  conse- 
quences of,  133  ;  Koppen,  H.  F., 



case  of  rescue  from  grave  fatally 
delayed,  134  ;  case  at  Brompton, 
364;  in  a  U.S.A.  field  hospital, 
364  ;  in  a  mortuary  at  Hamburg, 
363  ;  in  mortuaries  in  India,  361- 
363 ;  in  a  Brussels  mortuary, 
360  ;  in  a  Cassel  mortuary,  361  ; 
in  a  Lille  mortuary,  365  ;  in  a 
Buffalo  mortuary,  363  ;  in  a 
Marylebone  mortuary,  364. 

Escapes  from  being  cremated  alive 
in  India,  162-165. 

Exhumation,  without  an  order,  91, 
92;  law  of,  in  England,  134; 
cases  of,  too  late  for  rescue,  133- 
140;  case  of,  in  time  to  save  life, 

FABRI,  William,  condemns  hasty 
burial,  208. 

Fagge,  Dr.  Hilton,  on  trance,  42; 
on  risk  of  live  burial  in  cases  of 
sudden  death,  214;  on  putrefac- 
tion as  the  only  certain  sign  of 
death,  229. 

Fakirs,  cases  of  trance  in,  74,  75  ; 
experiment  with,  related  by  Hart- 
mann,  75'  7^- 

Farquharson,  Dr.  R.,  M.P.,  on  lax 
death-certification,  287. 

Farr,  Dr.  William,  on  definition  of 
sudden  death,  195. 

Fear  of  premature  burial,  Spectator 
on,  12,  13,  186-193  ;  eminent 
subjects  of,  186-189;  Rev.  John 
Kingston  on  prevalence  of,  190; 
justifiable,  367. 

Figaro,  Le,  correspondence  in,  on 
live  burial,  269. 

Fletcher,  Dr.  Moore  Russell,  on 
animal  hibernation,  70;  relates 
cases  of  narrow  escape,  1 1 6,  117; 
on  negligent  treatmentof  the  dead, 
258;  on  restoratives,  311. 

Floyer,  Dr.  F.  A.,  relates  case  of 
narrow  escape,  108. 

Fluorescin  as  a  test  of  death,  312. 

Forestus  on  possibility  of  recovering 
supposed  dead,  376. 

Formalities,  fatal  consequences  of, 

France,  laws  of,  relating  to  burials,. 

Frankfort,  regulations  for  inspection 

of  the  dead,  398. 
Froriep,    M.,   cited  as   to   ratio    ot 

revivals  in  grave,  263. 

GAIRDNKR,  Dr.  W.  T.,  case  of 
trance  for  twenty-three  weeks,  46. 

Gannal,  Dr.  Felix,  his  valuable  bib- 
liography, on  putrefaction  the  only 
real  test,  230;  on  fallacious  signs 
of  death,  230-232. 

Gaubert,  M.,  his  estimate  of  ratio  of 
live  burials,  240,  267 ;  his  essay 
proves  that  wailing  mortuaries  are 
useful,  360. 

Gazette  Medicate  <?  Orient  asserts  live 
burials  at  Constantinople,  178. 

Gazette  Medicate  on  putrefactive 
test,  229. 

Germany,  waiting  mortuaries  of, 
369 ;  movement  in,  to  prevent 
premature  interment,  178. 

Gibbons,  Dr.  P.  }.,  on  premature 
embalming,  273. 

Glasgow,  Health  Congress,  resolu- 
tion as  to  cremation,  333. 

Gloucester,  burial  of  cholera  patients, 
118  ;  narrow  escape  in  small-pox, 


Glycas,  Nicephorus,  Metropolitan 
of  Lesbos,  escapes  live  burial,  127. 

Goa,  resident  of,  prematurely  cof- 
fined, 164. 

Godfrey,  Mrs.,  case  of,  384. 

Gooch,  Dr.,  his  case  of  catalepsy, 
62,  63. 

Goodman,  Mrs.,  celebrated  case  of, 


Gowers,  Dr.  W.  R.,  on  trance,  51  ; 
on  catalepsy,  43  ;  on  predisposi- 
tion to  same,  150. 

Granville,  Dr.  A.  B.,  on  sudden 
death,  195. 

Graveyards,  how  they  tell  their  tale, 

Green,  Anne,   case  of,   at   Oxford, 


Green,  Dr.  J.  W. ,  case  of  tardy~ 
recovery  after  immersion,  394. 



Guern,  M.  le,  his  experience  of 
frequency  of  live  burial,  264  ;  re- 
lates case  of  premature  dissection, 

Guy,  Dr.  W.  A.,  on  neglect  of  the 
subject  in  England,  7. 

HADWEN,  Dr.,  case  of  catalepsy, 
57-59  >  case  °f  escape  from  live 
burial,  98 ;  conditions  in  city 
slums,  175. 

Hanged  person,  the  heart  beating 
at  the  dissection  of  a,  210;  re- 
covery of  a,  375. 

Hanham,  Mr.  T.  C.  Swinburne,  on 
safeguards  used  by  Cremation 
Society,  329,  330. 

Harbutt,  Mr.  Wm.,  case  of  burial 
alive  at  Radstock,  139. 

Hartmann,  Dr.  Franz,  his  essay  pub 
lished  at  Boston,  U.S.,  7;  dis- 
tinguishes trance  from  catalepsy, 
59 ;  case  of  fakir,  79 ;  case  of 
revival  after  burial,  114;  relates 
two  cases  of  rescue  from  live 
burial  fatally  delayed,  136;  case 
of  catalepsy  revived,  151  ;  case 
of  Orrendo's  body  found  beside 
the  empty  coffin,  152  ;  on  predis- 
posing causes  of  trance,  158 ; 
relates  case  of  resuscitation  from 
spasms  of  the  heart,  215  ;  on  put- 
refaction the  sole  test  of  death, 
230,  231  ;  on  frequency  of  live 
burial,  269  ;  cases  of  premature 
dissection,  2/4-279  ;  two  cases  of 
escape  from  death  after  formal 
certification,  326. 

Haward,  Dr.  Edwin,  case  of  failure 
of  diaphanous  test,  225. 

Haweis,  Rev.  H.  R.,  advocates 
cremation  to  prevent  live  burial, 

Hearing,  sense  of,  in  suspended 
animation,  377,  378,  379. 

Heart,  stoppage  of,  as  test  of  death, 

Hedley,  Dr.  W.  S. ,  on  use  of  elec- 
tricity as  a  restorative,  310. 

Herachborg,  Dr.,  relates  case  of  a 

Jewess  rescued  from  the  under- 
takers, 178,  407.  (Hirschberg.) 

Hereford,  Chief  Constable  of,  cases 
of  trance  narrated  by,  54. 

Heron,  Dr.,  dread  of  premature 
burial,  189. 

Hertz,  Dr.  Marcus,  opposes  hasty 
burial  among  the  Jews,  179,  467. 

Hibernation,  instance  of,  in  the 
jerboa,  68  ;  Braid  on,  in  lower 
animals,  69  ;  Russell  Fletcher  on, 
in  reptiles  and  fishes,  70 ;  the 
bear,  71  ;  Dr  Brouardel  on, 
71,  72  ;  Hufeland  on,  73  ; 
case  of  Col.  Townshend,  73 ; 
self-induced  trance  in  fakirs,  74  ; 
strange  fakir  feats,  75  ;  Royal 
Aquarium,  buried  alive,  77;  Hart- 
mann, case  of  fakir,  79. 

Hibernation,  so-called  human,    72, 


Hincks,  Amelia,  a  case  of  narrow 
escape,  105. 

Hindrances,  legal,  to  disinterment, 

Hindus,  their  motive  for  speedy 
disposal  of  dead,  162. 

Historical  cases,  appendix  of,  371. 

Holmes,  Mrs.  Basil,  on  the  exten- 
sion of  burial-grounds,  333. 

Honigberger,  Dr.  J.  M.,  his  re- 
searches on  trance  in  India,  80. 

Hopps,  Rev.  J.  Page,  advocates 
cremation  to  prevent  live  burial, 


Hotels,  hasty  burials  from,  on  the 
Continent,  185. 

Howard,  Col.,  of  Co.  Wicklow,  his 
escape  from  live  burial,  126. 

Howard,  John,  dread  of  premature 
burial,  188. 

Hufeland,  Dr.  C.  W.,  on  trance,  44; 
narrates  narrow  escape  from  live 
burial,  107  ;  on  risks  and  horrors 
of  live  burial,  262  ;  devised  the 
Weimar  mortuary,  339. 

Humane  Society,  the  Royal,  cases 
from  its  reports,  382,  383,  384  ; 
literature  relating  to,  392. 

Hypodermic  medicines  as  restora- 
tives or  tests,  311. 



ICARD,  Dr.,  discovery  of  test  for 
death,  312  ;  prize  awarded,  319  ; 
instances  of  resuscitation  in  ap- 
parent death,  335,  336  ;  on  wait- 
ing mortuaries,  336,  337. 

India,  cases  of  burial  alive,  by  Dr. 
Chew,  82  ;  premature  burial  and 
cremation  in,  159-174  ;  Mr.  Billi- 
moria  on  the  risks  of  the  same, 
164;  soldiers  in,  not  liable  to  risk 
of  same,  166  ;  cremation  in,  334. 

Infants,  recovery  of  supposed  dead, 

Influenza  followed  by  trance,  154. 

Ireland,  hasty  burial  in,  270  ;  prac- 
tice of  burial  in,  404  ;  no  mortu- 
aries in,  354,  355. 

Irvine,  Mr.  Clarke,  on  popular 
trust  in  the  signs  of  death,  243. 

JACKSON,  Dr.,  of  Somerby,  relates 
case  of  supposed  death  by 
lightning-stroke,  221. 

James,  Dr.  J.  Brindley,  on  risks  of 
live  burial,  300. 

Japan,  cremation  in,  334. 

Jaws,  clenching  of,  as  signs  of  death, 


Jebb,  Dr.  John,  his  graphic  case  of 
catalepsy,  63 

Jerboa,  the,  its  hibernation,  68. 

Jewish  law,  danger  of,  142. 

Jewish  World,  on  the  special  risk  of 
live  burial  amongst  Jews,  179. 

Jews,  hasty  burials  among,  opposed, 
179  ;  cases  of,  restored  to  life  by 
delay,  179,  180,  181  ;  their  law 
of  burial  criticised,  179  ;  funeral 
practices  of,  377  ;  history  of  their 
practice  of  early  burial,  406  ;  dis- 
cussions on  same,  407. 

Jeypore,  fakir  in  a  trance  at,  74. 

Johnson,  Walter,  exhibits  himself  in 
a  trance,  115. 

Jones,  Rev.  Harry,  relates  cases  of 
escape  from  live  burial,  120. 

Josat,  Dr.,  on  absence  of  cardiac 
action  at  birth,  223  ;  statistics  of 
duration  of  apparent  death,  248  ; 
case  of  revival  in  mortuary  at 
Frankfort-on-the- Maine,  360. 

Joseph,  Mr. ,  on  risks  of  premature 
burial  or  burning  in  Ceylon,  163. 

method  of  invention,  186;  descrip- 
tion of  apparatus,  with  illustra- 
tions, 319-323. 

Kempner,  examination  of  grave- 
yards, 8 1. 

Kenny,  Dr.  J.  E.,  M.P.,  disposal 
of  the  dead  in  Ireland,  354,  355. 

Kerthomas,  M.  H.  L.,  relates  re- 
vival of  corpse  at  Lille,  365. 

Kesteven,  Mr.  W.  B.,  on  fallacy  of 
cardiac  test  of  death,  223. 

Kingston,  Rev.  John,  reality  of  live 
burial,  190. 

Kite,  Dr.  Charles,  on  uncertain 
signs  of  death,  10. 

Koppen,  II.  F.,  case  of  rescue  from 
grave  fatally  delayed,  134;  cases 
of  long  vitality  in  coffin  or  grave, 
252-254  ;  cites  estimate  of  ratio 
of  live  burials,  261. 

Korff,  Ruben,  coil  as  a  test  of  death, 

Kuhn,  Dr.,  reports  on  trance,  80. 

LAGENBERG,  Van,  Dr.,  information 
from,  as  to  premature  burials  at 
Colombo,  160. 

Lancet,  The,  on  the  horror  of  live 
burial,  1 1  :  case  of  catalepsy  at 
Dunkirk,  65  ;  on  reality  of  prema- 
ture interment,  89  ;  burial  alive  in 
France,  93  ;  on  a  case  of  revival 
from  death- trance  at  Nuneaton, 
105  ;  cases  of  escape  in  small- 
pox, 121  ;  case  of  premature 
encoffinment,  122 ;  on  cholera 
patients  buried  alive,  182  ;  on 
diagnosis  of  apparent  death,  235, 
236  ;  burial  alive  at  Bordeaux, 
265,  266  ;  on  mortuaries,  339, 
340  ;  on  recovery  of  the  still- 
born, 390,  391. 

Lancisi,  Dr.,  his  belief  in  reanima- 
tion,  10  ;  opposes  delay  in  burial, 

Laurens,  Miss,  her  recovery  from 
apparent  death,  384. 



Lee,    General,    subject    to    trance 

seizures,  45  ;  buried  alive,  45. 
Lenormand,  Dr.  Leonce,  enumer- 
tes  death-like  conditions,  158  ;  on 
apparent  death  in  cases  of  apo- 
plexy, 214  ;  on  delay  of  asphyxia 
in  coffin,  250 ;  estimates  ratio  of 
live  burials,  264  ;  on  laxity  of  the 
medecins  verificateurs,  293  ;  on 
value  of  mortuary  system  in  Ber- 
lin* 359,  S^o. 

Lesbos,  Greek  Orthodox  Metro- 
politan of,  his  escape  from  live 
burial,  127. 

Lethargy,  synonym  of  trance,  46-58. 
Levitical  law  of  corpses  and  burials, 

Lightning-stroke,  cases  of  apparent 

death  from,  390. 

Lignieres,    Dr.    de,    on    premature 

burials  from  hotels,  185  ;  on  large 

ratio  of  uncertain  deaths,  241. 

Lille,  revivals  in  mortuaries  at,  365. 

Lindsay,   Sir  W.,   his  escape  from 

live  burial,  104. 
Lisbon,    case   of  cataleptic  trance, 


Londe,  Dr.   Charles,   on  cold  pre- 
disposing   to    live    burial,    153; 
on   duration   of  breathing    in    a 
coffin,  250  ;  relates  case  of  tardy 
recovery  after  immersion,  393. 
London  Association  for  Prevention 
of  Premature  Burial,   resolution, 
291 ;  list  of  publications,  438,  439. 
London,    burial-grounds    of,    333  ; 
mortuaries  of,  349-354  ;    revivals 
in  mortuaries,  364,  365. 
Looking-glass  test  of  death,  219. 
Louis,  Dr.  Antoine,  relates  case  of 

premature  dissection,  277. 
Lusitanus,  Dr.  Zacutus,  witness  of 

revival  in  a  coffin,  336. 
Lytton,  Edward  Bulwer,  baron,  his 
dread  of  being  buried  alive,  188. 

MACNISH,  Dr.,  on  trance,  51. 

Madden,  Dr.  T.  More,  cases  of 
death- counterfeits,  49-51. 

Manchester,  Bishop  of,  on  crema- 
tion, 332. 

Manchester    Criterion   on    revivals 

after  sudden  death,  217. 
Manning,  Rev.  Owen,  case  of,  383. 
Martineau,  Harriet,  provision  of  her 

will   against  risk  of   live  burial, 

Marylebone,  case  of  recovery  in  the 

mortuary  of,  364. 
Mason,  Good,  case  of  death-trance, 


Mason,  Mr.  R.  B.,  of  Nuneaton, 
authenticates  case  of  narrow 
escape,  105. 

Maze,  Dr.,  award  of  Dusgate  prize 
(1890),  319. 

Mifctecins  verificateurs •,  their  duties 
perfunctorily  discharged,  292, 293. 

Medical  Examiner  on  putrefactive 
test,  229. 

Medical  experiences  of  escape  from 
live  burial,  113-117. 

Medical  Times  and  Hospital  Gazette 
on  Cardinal  Donnet's  cases  of  live 
burial,  109-113  ;  on  vivisection  of 
a  criminal,  210  ;  on  hospital  mor- 
tuaries, 352  ;  on  Burial  Act,  290, 

Medical  training,  absence  of,  in 
trance,  etc.,  369. 

Medicine,  profession  of,  sceptical  as 
to  death-trance  and  live  burial, 
141  ;  a  new  sphere  of  work  for, 

Mendelssohn,  Moses,  writes  against 
early  burial,  406. 

Milner,  Dr.  Ebenezer,  on  rigor 
mortis,  225. 

Mission,  M.  Max,  his  opinion  on 
frequency  of  live  burial,  264 ;  in- 
stances cited  by,  372. 

Mistakes,  fatal,  in  trance,  55. 

Mitchell,  Dr.  S.  Weir,  case  of  ap- 
parent death,  220. 

Mody,  Ervad  Jivanji,  his  explana- 
tion of  the  Sagdeed  at  Parsee 
funerals,  168  ;  on  the  use  of  the 
chain  at  the  Towers  of  Silence, 

Molloy,  J.  F.,  alleges  trance  in  B. 
Disraeli,  53. 



Monteverdi,  M.,  his  test  of  death, 


Moore,  Dr.  G.,  on  so-called  human 
hibernation,  72,  73. 

Mortuaries,  an  illustration  of  their 
use,  337  >  their  history,  338,  339  ; 
the  Lance f  s  approval  of,  339 ; 
waiting,  should  be  established  in 
all  sanitary  districts,  369  ;  move- 
ment in  favour  of,  began  in  France, 
338  ;  first  executed  in  Germany, 
338  ;  new  and  sumptuous  ex- 
ample of,  at  Munich,  341  ;  as 
now  existing  in  London,  349-354  ; 
Sir  W.  J.  Collins  on,  354  ;  sug- 
gestions for  their  improvement 
and  extension,  353  :  Medical 
Times  on  those  of  hospitals,  352  ; 
as  now  existing  in  provincial 
towns,  354  ;  want  of,  in  Ireland, 
354>  355  '•>  objections  answered, 
356-359  ;  those  of  Brussels,  360 ; 
of  Berlin,  359  ;  of  Frankfort-on- 
the-Maine,  360;  of  Cassel,  361  ; 
of  India,  361  ;  of  Hamburg,  363  ; 
of  United  States  of  America,  363  ; 
of  London,  364  ;  of  Lille,  365  ; 
utility  of,  359-365- 

Moscow,  burial  customs  at,  403. 

Mount  Edgcumbe,  Lady,  buried  in 
trance,  46. 

Munich,  new  sumptuous  mortuary 
at,  341-349  ;  utility  of  the  mor- 
tuary at,  349,  357  ;  ordinances 
of,  for  ascertaining  death,  401. 

Myers,  on  trance,  41. 

NARROW  escapes  from  premature 
burial,  98. 

Necker,  Madam,  her  practical  sug- 
gestions to  prevent  live  burial, 

Needle  test  of  death,  232. 

Netherlands,  the,  .burial  laws  of, 

Newsholme,  Dr  A. ,  on  unregistered 
still-births,  398. 

Noises  from  the  tomb,  92-95. 

Nowroji,  Mr.  Ardeshar,  on  prema- 
ture exposure  of  the  dead  among 
Parsees,  169. 

Number,  probable,  of  live  burials, 

Nuneaton,    authentic    case    at,    of 

narrow  escape,  105. 
Nusserwanje,    Air.    Dadabhoy,    on 

cases   of   restored    animation    in 

Parsees,  169. 

OBJECTIONS  to  waiting  mortuaries 
answered,  356-359. 

O'Connell,  Daniel,  his  dread  of 
being  buried  alive,  188. 

Ogston,  Professor  Francis,  records 
probable  case  of  premature  dis- 
section, 275. 

O'Neill,  Dr.  W.,  relates  case  of 
narrow  escape,  115. 

Ordinances.  (See  under  "  Regula- 

Orfila,  M.,  diaphanous  test  useless, 

O'Rourke,  Mr.  John,  on  hurried 
embalming,  396. 

Orrendo,  case  of,  at  Kronstadt,  152. 

Ouseley,  Rev.  J.  G.,  estimates  ratio 
of  live  burials,  263. 

PARK,  Dr.  Anna,  three  times  in 
danger  of  burial  alive,  52. 

Parsees,  their  mode  of  disposing  of 
the  dead,  167,  173  ;  their  pre- 
judice against  persons  restored  to 
life,  170,  173. 

Patzki,  Dr.  J.  H.,  his  case  of  re- 
covery by  artificial  respiration, 


Pembroke,  Willian,  Earl  of,  em- 
balmed, 273. 

Perspiration  a  sign  of  revival,  49. 

Petitions  for  prevention  of  prema- 
ture burial,  266,  267. 

Phelps,  Lieut. -General  A.,  advo- 
cates cremation  to  prevent  live 
burial,  327. 

Plato,  his  reason  for  advising  tardy 
disposal  of  dead,  176,  376  ;  re- 
lates a  case  of  revival,  371. 

Pliny  gives  instances  of  the  dead 
restored,  372. 

Plutarch,  case  of  revival  cited  from, 



Prasad,  Mr.  Durga,  relates  escape 
from  burning  alive,  162. 

Predisposition  to  trance,  in  drunken- 
ness, 157  >  from  nervous  exhaus- 
tion, 149  ;  in  women,  151  ;  from 
cold,  153  ;  after  influenza,  154  ; 
from  narcotics,  155  ;  in  cholera, 
156 ;  in  various  morbid  states, 

157,  158- 

Pregnancy,  apparent  death  during, 

Premature  burial,  special  risks,  367. 

Premature  encoffinment,  cases  by 
Dr.  Icard,  336,  337. 

Presentiments  and  their  realisation, 
96,  97- 

Prevention,  means  of,  by  test  of 
senses,  305  ;  by  exciting  the  skin, 
305,  306  ;  by  auscultation,  307  ; 
by  electricity,  309-311  ;  by  hypo- 
dermic injection,  311;  Dr.  Icard's 
discovery,  312  ;  by  artificial  re- 
spiration, 313  ;  summary  of,  in 
All  the  Year  Round,  314-318; 
prizes  for  discovery  of,  318.  (See 
also  under  "  Tests  of  Death.") 

Prix  Dusgate,  318,  424. 

Prix  d'Ourches,  318,  423. 

Prix  Manni>  318,  421. 

Prize  by  the  Brussels  Royal  Aca- 
demy, 412. 

Publisher,  a  well-known,  relates  to 
the  author  a  case  of  narrow 
escape,  128. 

Putrefaction  the  one  safe  test  of 
death,  Dr.  Chew  on,  228  ;  Dr. 
Fagge  on,  229  ;  Medical  Ex- 
aminer on,  230  ;  Dr.  Gannal  on, 
230  ;  only  real  safeguard,  369. 

Pye-Smith,  Dr.  P.  H.,  on  caution 
to  be  used  in  cases  of  trance.  214 

QUENSTEDT  on   dormancy  of  vital 

principle,  377. 
Quintilian   gives   reason   for    tardy 

burial  by  the  Romans,  176. 

RACHEL,  Mile,  (actress),  said  to  have 
been  prematurely  embalmed,  274. 

Ratio  of  live  burials,  and  estimate 
of,  261-264. 

Recommendations  of  the  authors, 

Regulations  against  early  burial 
after  sudden  death,  218  ;  in 
Wiirtemburg  for  ascertaining  real 
death,  234  ;  in  Bavaria  for  same, 
244-247  ;  in  the  Netherlands, 

398  ;    Frankfort,    398  ;    France, 

399  ;  Austria,  400  ;  Vienna,  400  ; 
Dalmatia,    401  ;    Saxony,    401  ; 
Munich,    401  ;     Calcutta,    402  ; 
Bombay,  403  ;  Cape  Town,  403  ; 
Moscow,    403  ;     Brussels,    403  ; 
Denmark,  404